Friday, August 5, 2011

Solar Storm of 2012-2013

For a time now I have been doing some research on solar storm and its possible dire effects on Earth should a really big one starts hitting our planet as the sun reaches its solar maximum in the next two years.

What prompted me to do this research is when I chanced upon on youtube a recorded interview of Dr. Michio Kaku in 2009, a Theoretical Physicist of CUNY by Fox news, regarding the warning that the US National Academy of Science has given on the possibility and dire effects on our existing technology, of  a "grand" solar storm hitting our planet every time that it gets near the end of its eleven (11) year Solar Cycle.  Aside from the fact of course that more than a year ago Discovery Channel has featured on its program "Perfect Disaster", the possible consequences of being hit by a Perfect Solar Storm.

So here I am, posting what I was able to gather as posted in my column at subic-examiner (still remember?) last week. 

From Subic examiner which was posted in three (3) parts

In an interview conducted by Fox News in 2009 to Dr. Michio Kaku, a Theoritical  Physicist of CUNY, he was quoted as saying that a “Massive solar flare in the years 2012/2013 could throw us back 100 years”.

Relatively, as early as 2008, the US National Academy of Science, the highest scientific advisory body to the United States Congress, has issued a report  on the adverse effect of a Massive Solar Storm should one hit our planet.

Entitled Severe Space Weather Events – Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts Workshop Report, the report stated in its executive summary that “because of the interconnectedness of critical infrastructures in modern society, the impacts of severe space weather events can go beyond disruption of existing technical systems and lead to short-term as well as to long-term collateral socioeconomic disruptions.”  The report also mentioned the critical part of electrical power in the threat of a solar storm since it is “the technology on which virtually all other infrastructures and services depend.”

Although it was careful in stating that “the probability of a wide-area electric power blackout resulting from an extreme space weather event is low,” it stated that “the consequences of such an event could be very high, as its effects would cascade through other dependent systems.

What is a solar storm?

SOHO coronagraphs captured this movie of a coronal mass ejection (CME) heading towards Earth (NASA)
Solar winds are caused by tremendous explosions in the Sun's chromosphere, often times associated to the presence of a very high number of sunspots which normally occurs as the sun approaches the last years of its eleven (11) year solar cycle.

This massive explosions within the Sun's surface could result to solar flares and Coronal Mass Ejection/s (CME) that can heat space particles to millions of degrees in a few minutes, that could release energies in the forms of electro-magnetic (Gamma and X rays); energetic particles (protons and electrons); and mass flows with an amount of energy that can be compared to billion megatons of trinitrotoluene (TNT),

As these emitted energies moves away from the sun, it can change speed due to streams of colliding and interacting particles that are moving at different speeds which can result to shock waves that can accelerate from less than 300 km/s to over 800 km/s depending upon the conditions in the corona, and on the Sun's rotation.

These constantly changing solar winds, can alternately pass by the Earth which is, if severe enough can produce storms in the magnetosphere which can be seen by people who lives near the magnetic polar regions in the forms of Aurorae, Borrealis (for the northern region) and Australis (for the southern region).

Its Effect on Earth

Under normal condition these solar storms simply pass by the Earth and be deflected or absorbed by its Magnetosphere, and for some time now this has been occurring without us in our country even noticing it.  In my lifetime and with the Sun's 11 year solar cycle of "flipping magnetic poles" ( the time where the magnetic poles of the Sun changes from north to south and vice versa) I have already passed at least three cycles without me noticing any dire effect. This is true, so long that the Earth’s Magnetosphere and Atmosphere remains intact and continues to protect us from these dangerous solar radiations.

Eventually, the same is not true when it comes to the technology that we currently have. This is because the energy that the Solar Storm carries can damage Electrical and electronic based equipment and can overload power plant generators, transformers and capacitors.

Recorded Solar Storms with damaging effects

1859 - A solar storm that is considered to be the largest geomagnetic storm to hit Earth in recorded history has paralyzed the US telegraph system by overloading its telegraph wires. Though the damage that the storm have caused compared today could only be considered to be minimal, with the kind of technology that we currently enjoy and with our heavy dependence on Electricity, Dr. Kaku in his blog " A possible Solar Storm in  2012?" said,

"From the damage done we can calculate how massive the solar storm was, and it was a whopper! In fact, if that solar storm of 1859 were to hit us today it would cause (according to the report) trillions of dollars in property damage and hundreds of billions of dollars in damage for each of the countries that were affected" [1].

February 11, 1958 - Radio blackout cuts US off from the rest of the world. Aurora was visible in Los Angeles, Tulsa, Boston, Seattle, Canada and Newfoundland. Voltages in electrical telegraph circuits exceeded 320 volts in Newfoundland. Although not seen over New York, it was so intense over Europe that people wondered about fires and warfare. [2]

March 1989 - A solar storm much less intense than the perfect space storm of 1859 caused the Hydro-Quebec (Canada) power grid to go down for over nine hours, and the resulting damages and loss in revenue were estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.[3]

1994 - A solar storm caused major malfunctions to two communications satellites, disrupting newspaper, network television and nationwide radio service throughout Canada. Other storms have affected systems ranging from cell phone service and TV signals to GPS systems and electrical power grid [4]

October 29, 2003 - The Halloween Storm - This Halloween Storm spawned auroras that were seen over most of North America. Extensive satellite problems were reported, including the loss of the $450 million Midori-2 research satellite. A huge solar storm has impacted the Earth, just over 19 hours after leaving the sun. This is one of the fastest solar storms in historic times, only beaten by the perfect solar storm in 1859 which spent an estimated 17 hours in transit. A few days later on November 4, 2003 one of the most powerful x-ray flares ever detected, swamped the sensors of dozens of satellites, causing satellite operations anomalies….but no aurora. Originally classified as an X28 flare, it was upgraded to X34 a month later. In all of its fury, it never became a white light flare such as the one observed by Carrington in 1859. Astronauts hid deep within the body of the International Space Station, but still reported radiation effects and ocular 'shooting stars'.[5]

(For a complete archive of solar storms since 1859 unto 2003, based on newspaper reports click here: )

Why it affects Electronic Devices, Electrical Appliances and Power Plants

The effect can be compared on the way we generate electricity in our power generating plants.  Electricity and Magnetism are related to each other, that their existence cannot be denied once the presence of the other is detected.

When electricity passes to a wire conductor, a magnetic field perpendicular to the flowing current is generated. 

When the intensity of this magnetic field changes as the amount of flowing current varies, a counter electromotive force known as “induced voltage” can develop across the wire conductor (Lenz' Law).

This is a natural phenomenon in electromagnetism that lead to the invention of modern day transformers that allowed us to transfer electrical energy on an adjacent wire conductor, without these wires even touching each other.

Similarly, the effect of electromagnetism can also be explained using our method of radio transmission, where electrical signals from a transmitter (cell phones, TV and Radio Stations) are propagated via antennas that converts electrical signal to electromagnetic energies during transmission, and vice versa during reception.

During solar storms, the energy released by the Sun includes electromagnetic energy. Thus when this energy of tremendous amount hits a wire conductor, it can generate an induced voltage across the wire that can simulate the effect of an electrical transformer.  Although, the amount of induced voltage may vary as dictated by Faraday's Law of induced voltage, history in itself will prove that this can cause damage to telegraph lines in the early days of communications, and radio communications, including power plants, in our modern day technology.

Solar Storm of 2011 - 2012

In December 21, 2006, David Hathaway of the Marshall Space Flight Center and his colleague Robert Wilson presented at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco their findings and predictions of a "Big Solar Cycle" that is due on 2010 and 2011.

Cross correlating sunspot numbers vs. 150 years of geomagnetic activity of Inter-hour Variability (IHV) indices, derived from magnetometer data taken every day since 1868 and recorded at two points on opposite sides of the Earth: one in England and another in Australia, they found that the IHV predicts the amplitude of the solar cycle 6-plus years in advance with a 94% correlation coefficient. [6]

"We don't know why this works," says Hathaway. The underlying physics is a mystery. "But it does work."[7]

According to their analysis, the next Solar Maximum should peak around 2010 with a sunspot number of 160 plus or minus 25. This would make it one of the strongest solar cycles of the past fifty years—which is to say, one of the strongest in recorded history. [8]

Prior to Hathaway and Wilson's presentation, earlier on March of the same year, Mausumi Dikpati of the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) using the "conveyor belt model" which Hathaway, like most experts of the field, have confidence with, have already predicted that a storm is coming -- the most intense solar maximum in fifty years.[9]

However, their forecast regarding the start of Solar Maximum differs.  Dikpati's forecast puts Solar Max at 2012. Hathaway believes it will arrive in 2010 or 2011. [10]

But just how big will it be in simple layman's term?

"Looks like its going to be one of the most intense cycles since record-keeping began almost 400 years ago"
                - David Hathaway, Marshall Space Flight Center

"The next sunspot cycle will be 30% to 50% stronger than the previous one"
                - Mausumi Dikpati, National Center for Atmospheric Research

Basing from this information now come the big questions.

1.Does our Government know about this warning?

2.What are the contingency plans that the Government is currently doing in order to prepare our people should, as predicted by these scientist, a massive solar storm does hit our planet and starts affecting our communication system and power-generating facilities?

3.Although there is a possibility that the solar storm might not affect us directly due to our location being in the equatorial region, the aftermath of this geomagnetic storm affecting our neighbouring countries might even cause problems in our economy.  Just imagine what will happen once our modern day navigation and communication satellites get damaged.  What will be its implication when it comes to our country's importation of needed resources, like oil? Unless a more comprehensive analysis and study is made by our Government officials, we will never know.   

4.As the old saying goes "Prevention is better than cure!" Dr. Michio Kaku has already suggested preventive measures in his interviews and in his own blog, “will our government heed or even do some preventive measures?”

In conclusion

In the Earth's entire history of artificial satellite launches, the United States Space Surveillance Network (SSN) has tracked more than 24,500 space objects orbiting the Earth. Although most of these have already fallen back on Earth, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) there are approximately 3,000 Earth Orbiting Satellite in space out of roughly 8,000 man-made objects in total.[11]

Eventually, when this predicted Solar Storm hits us, the most vulnerable are these orbiting artificial satellites.

I certainly do hope that our government does something now and not wait when all these artificial satellites start to fall like hail storm. Nor wait for us to see Dancing Bright Lights in the Sky (Aurorae), because when we do, it becomes our signal that the BIG storm has indeed arrived.  And when it does, just how prepared are we?

1]  “A possible solar Storm in 2012? “ – Dr. Michio Kaku - Big Think : Dr. Kaku's Universe March 31, 2010- retrieved on July 1, 2011, from
[2] "Archive of the most severe solar weather" - Space Weather - retrieved on July 2, 2011, from

[3]"Solar Super Storm" NASA Science News October 23, 2003 - retrieved on July 1, 2011, from

[4] ibid

[5] "Archive of the most severe solar weather" - Space Weather - retrieved on July 2, 2011, from

[6]"Scientist Predict Big Solar Cycle" NASA Science News Dec. 21, 2006 - Retrieved on July 2, 2011, from

[7] ibid

[8] ibid

[9]"Solar Storm Warning"  NASA Science News March 10, 2006 - Retrieved on July 2, 2011, from

[10] ibid

[11]"How many satellites are orbiting the Earth?"  WiseGeek retrieved on July 2, 2011 from -


"Solar Physics" NASA - Marshall Space Flight Center -
Gif Image:

Downloaded from the NASA Science News: Solar Solar Storm - NASA Science News - retrieved on July 2, 201, from

Other Sources:

Youtube videos:

"NASA Warns of Super Solar Storm 2012" Youtube March 26, 2009 - retrieved on July 2, 2011 from -

"Michio Kaku: Massive solar flare in the years 2012/2013 could throw us back 100 years" YouTube August 19, 201, retrieved on July 2, 2011 from

Discovery Channel – Perfect Disaster: Perfect Solar Storm
A mixed documentary and fiction produced by Discovery Channel
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

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