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Extreme Space Weather A Greater Threat Than Anthropogenic Climate Change

Updated on February 1, 2017
NASA photo modified by Robert Kernodle with overlaid hockey stick graph.
NASA photo modified by Robert Kernodle with overlaid hockey stick graph.

Anthropogenic Climate Change

My earlier hubpages ... describe why I am convinced that anthropogenic (or human-caused) climate change is NOT the threat that enthusiasts make it out to be. In these earlier articles, I have pointed to misunderstandings that seem to perpetuate popular alarmism over the issue of global warming.

I, thus, have come to believe that extreme space weather is a more legitimate cause for alarm than human CO2 production.

Satire of human-caused climate change by Robert Kernodle, derived from photograph of Michelangelo's THE FALL.
Satire of human-caused climate change by Robert Kernodle, derived from photograph of Michelangelo's THE FALL.

"Weather" In Outer Space?

The word, "weather", applied to outer space admittedly stretches a terrestrial concept, but NOT in a manner that distorts reality, as I feel the concept of a "greenhouse" has distorted the understanding of Earth's climate.

Space weather ... occurs OUTSIDE the terrestrial atmosphere, between the planet Earth and the sun. Space weather involves eruptions of the sun's mass and magnetic fields, and translations of these solar disturbances through outer space, under conditions that can align to cause the perfect electromagnetic storm.

In view of what we know on this subject, it is time to overcome a myopic view of "climate" that seems to privilege human CO2 effects on the globe. Far more extensive, more powerful effects exist that could ruin civilization more certainly.

2 Expert Reports On Dangers Of Extreme Space Weather

[1] Severe Space Weather Events--Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts: A Workshop Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2008 [downloaded July 30, 2014]

The main industries whose operations can suffer from extreme space weather occurrences are:

  • electric power industry,
  • spacecraft industry,
  • aviation industry,
  • GPS-based positioning industries.

Collateral effects of longer-term outages would likely include:

  • disruption of transportation systems,
  • disruption of communication systems,
  • disruption of banking and finance systems,
  • disruption of government services,
  • breakdown of portable water distribution because of pump failure,
  • loss of perishable foods and medications because of refrigerator failure.

[2] Paul Cannon [chairperson of study working group] (2013), Extreme Space Weather: Impacts On Engineered Systems And Infrastructure, Royal Academy Of Engineering [downloaded July 30, 2014]

Rarely occurring solar super storms:

  • generate X-rays and solar radio bursts,
  • accelerate solar particles to relativistic velocities,
  • cause major perturbations to the solar wind.

These environmental changes can cause DETRIMENTAL EFFECTS to:

  • electricity grid,
  • satellites,
  • avionics,
  • air passengers,
  • signals from satellite navigation systems,
  • mobile telephones and more.

Consequently, solar super storms are risks to the world economy and society.

"The general consensus is that a solar superstorm is inevitable, a matter not of ‘if’ but ‘when?’. One contemporary view is that a Carrington-level event will occur within a period of 250 years with a confidence of ~95% and within a period of 50 years with a confidence of ~50%, but these figures should be interpreted with considerable care."

Impacts Of Space Weather

Figure 1: IMPACTS OF SPACE WEATHER, L. J. Lanzerotti, Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies, Inc., with selected text highlights by Robert Kernodle
Figure 1: IMPACTS OF SPACE WEATHER, L. J. Lanzerotti, Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies, Inc., with selected text highlights by Robert Kernodle

Two Peer Reviewed Articles On Dangers Of Extreme Space Weather

[ONE] Baker, D. N., X. Li, A. Pulkkinen, C. M. Ngwira, M. L. Mays, A. B. Galvin, and K. D. C. Simunac (2013), A Major Solar Eruptive Event In July 2012: Defining Extreme Space Weather Scenarios, SPACE WEATHER, 11, 585–591. [downloaded July 30, 2014]

  • The probability of an extremely powerful solar storm ("Carrington class") is about 10% per decade.
  • On July 23, 2012 such a powerful solar storm did occur, but focused away from the Earth, allowing our society narrowly to escape a geomagnetic storm as large as a March 1989 storm that caused the failure of Canada's Hydro Quebec power station.
  • Had the season and time of day for this storm been right, the world would have witnessed a storm larger (possibly much larger) than the 1859 Carrington event, which most likely would have had devastating consequences for many technological systems.
  • This extreme space weather event proves that such storms can occur even during a period of weak or moderate sunspot cycles.

[TWO] Yang D. Liu and others (2014), Observations Of An Extreme Storm In Interplanetary Space Caused By Successive Coronal Mass Ejections, NATURE Communications, Volume 5 [downloaded July 30, 2014]

  • A solar wind disturbance on March 13, 1989 caused the most severe geomagnetic storm of the space age, which led to the collapse of Canada’s Hydro-Quebec power grid and a resulting loss of electricity to six million people for up to nine hours.
  • On July 23, 2012, a record solar wind speed and magnetic field would have generated the most severe geomagnetic storm since the beginning of the space era, if the event had hit the Earth.

Carrington Class Storm Narrowly Misses Earth In 2012

Survey On CO2 vs Carrington Class Solar Storm

Which is more of a concern?

See results

UPDATE : Here is a a 2017 Paper

E. J. Oughton, A. Skelton, R. B. Horne, A. W. P. Thomson, and C. T. Gaunt (2017), Quantifying the daily economic impact of extreme space weather due to failure in electricity transmission infrastructure, SPACE WEATHER, 15.


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