Solar Flare Could Knock Internet Offline For Weeks

Scientists warned that a coming massive solar flare could render the globe’s internet useless for several weeks. This cosmic storm is possible as the sun enters a period of more intense activity.

Experts believe a detectable warning could be found anywhere from 18 to 24 hours before the Earth’s magnetic field suffered significant disruptions.

What can be done to actually prepare for such a massive event is another story. Everything from the global power grid and underground fiber optic cable to communications equipment and radio transmitters could be damaged by such an occurrence.

Dr. Peter Becker of George Mason University noted the relative good fortune enjoyed by humanity during the Internet age. This era is “a time when the sun has been relatively quiet, and now it’s entering a more active time.”

Becker is part of a project to develop an early warning system. This is critical, he said, because for the first time humanity is going into a period of increased solar activity while simultaneously being quite dependent on the internet.

Everything from health to the economy is built on access to cyberspace, something that could come to a grinding halt without warning.

George Mason and the Naval Research Laboratory combined forces on a project to develop an early warning system. Becker is the lead investigator in the effort to devise a way to avoid an “internet apocalypse.”

He explained the effect of a massive geomagnetic storm on the planet. Most electronics are “grounded,” and the third prong on an electric plug is designed to do just that.

In the storm’s instance, however, there is current coming up from the ground. In essence, the safety measures designed to protect our electronics end up working against us and burning out equipment thought to be amply protected.

There have been two recorded instances of solar flares causing widespread havoc on electrical systems. The Earth’s magnetic field was struck by a coronal mass ejection (CME) on March 13, 1989.

In less than two minutes, millions in Quebec were without electricity after receiving no warning. The blackout lasted for nine hours in what is now considered the largest geomagnetic storm of modern times.

This was not the largest such storm in recorded history.

On Sept. 1, 1859, the Carrington Event caused telegraph stations to spark and even catch fire. Atmospheric auroral displays were reported across the globe in the aftermath of what was almost certainly a massive CME.