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Solar Flares: The Impact They Have on Our Planet (A Research Argument)

Updated on September 29, 2012

Looking up at the sky during the day is sometimes hard to do without sunglasses, and we tend to get watery eyes after. The sun is an intense ball of heated plasma swirling in the center of our galaxy, and projecting mass amounts of photon energy in the form we see as light. If it were not for the sun, then we would have a cold, barren, wasteland of a planet, and we probably never have been created. So the sun is our source of life in a sense, but it can also get a violent temper and throw a few flares at us causing some extreme danger to our lives. Solar Flares are arcs on the surface of the sun, projecting heated waves of electrons that can travel many millions of light years across the universe. The only time these cosmic waves of energy stop, is when they impact on something else, for instance a planet. Earth has the capability of withstanding a lot of this cosmic energy due to its strong electromagnetic shield known as our atmosphere. However, it can still be penetrated with enough energy. Solar flares have spiked to great peaks in the past and scientists have seen much damage in our environment when they do. Although in the past scientists have not proven exactly how much damage a solar flare can do to earth, scientists now predict that solar flares could lead to worldwide catastrophes through electrical disruptions, health problems, and climate changes.

Figure 1 How Solar Flare Impacts Satellites
Figure 1 How Solar Flare Impacts Satellites

It’s possible that a large enough solar flare can cause a worldwide catastrophe with electrical disruption across the planet’s surface, which will wipe out a lot of the technology we use on a daily basis. We have solar flare activity all the time, but most of them are small scale as Marusek stated in his journal,

Most solar storms produce only minor disquieting effects on Earth. Typically one might expect short-term electrical power blackouts, short lived communication outages, rerouting of aircraft, loss of a few satellites and a beautiful ‘”aurora borealis”’ in the nights sky from a large solar storm (Marusek, 1).

However, if these solar flare storms continue to grow, then you will see that many dangerous and harmful situations can occur. I want to explain to you the functions of a solar flare, and why it’s capable of creating these massive storms that will cause so much disruption to Earth. Solar Flares are magnetically driven explosions on the surface of the sun. Imagine a burst of electromagnetic radiation in the form of X-rays blasting heat at our upper atmosphere, and striping away electrons from our ionosphere. I bet that sentence sounded a bit overwhelming, but to clarify, radiation from any ray of light can produce heat on your body which can burn you and penetrate your skin to harm your inner organs. Similarly these effects happen to the atmosphere around earth, and if enough radiations and free electrons break through then we get electrical anomalies.

When a solar storm occurs, its strength is determined by three components in order to cause severe electrical disruption. These components are solar flares, solar proton events (SPEs), and coronal mass ejections (CMEs). A CME interacts with Earth’s magnetic field to produce geomagnetic storms, which will be explained shortly on its historical destruction and power. However, the key elements of these solar components are their arrival times and duration effects. On an average scale, any solar flare is instantaneous and lasts between 1-2 hours which is small in comparison to SPEs and CMEs that last 2-4 days. The importance lies within the solar flare itself, since it is the carrier of the mass ejection of photon energy. These waves of energy give off so much electromagnetic transmission that most of our technology cannot handle such a powerful fusion into their transformers, so when this occurs they tend to explode from the overload. I literally mean “stand back this will explode” type of overload, because the current in electricity gets the circuits way too hot. Our planet runs efficiently on the technology we have produced, but what we do not realize is we as the human race actually depend upon this technology now. The filtration of water and sewage is ran electronically, and also our light and heat. In fact if we had this technology about two centuries earlier then we might have seen just how badly we would be affected by solar flares.

In 1859 on September 1st, the “Carrington White Light Flare” (Marusek, 2) occurred, this was the largest known flare to hit Earth directly. Richard Carrington described the storm as knocking out telegraph lines completely and sending displays of aurora light in green, red, and purple across the skies, and they reached from the Rocky Mountains beyond Hawaii. Possibly the only positive result was that the geomagnetic storm created by the CME was so strong, that you could take the batteries out of your radio, and communicate with each other just using the frequency strength in the air. Scientists have claimed that if we get a hit like the Carrington Event did then our technology will put us in massive global blackouts for possibly months. Scientists do predict this possibility by the resulting solar flare spikes that have occurred over the past century, as described in “Table 4. Great Solar Storms.” (Marusek, 4).

Table 4. Great Solar Storms
Table 4. Great Solar Storms

Though to give you an example of anything close to the solar flare on September 1st, 1859, if we were to be impacted then based on Ferris facts, “the National Academy of Sciences report estimates that such a storm could wreak the disruption of 20 Katrina-class hurricanes” (Ferris 2) we would be in a lot of trouble.

Figure 2  Scene from Fantastic Four (cosmic storm)
Figure 2 Scene from Fantastic Four (cosmic storm)

The sun alone can cause skin cancers and irritation, but solar flares are capable of causing a vast array of health problems including: loss of consciousness, internal cancerous tumors, and vertigo. The Carlini Institute for Research Therapy makes a more dramatic approach to the changes in the sun’s activity. Although the Earth and its technologies are affected electromagnetically; Carlini explains that, “There appears to be a direct connection between the Sun’s solar storms and human biological effect especially after an “M” class solar flare” (Carlini 2). What we can take from that statement is that perhaps our biological make-up is connected to not only the elements of our planet but of all those that surround it as well. Granted within Carlini’s article I was mostly unimpressed, since two thirds of it is unproven nonsense about prophecies. However, medically and biologically she does provide positive facts on how a large solar flare could affect our bodies. Basically our body is made up of billions of cells, and these cells are similar to the design of an atom. Since solar flares can literally strip away electrons from an atom, then similar changes will occur to our cells. Cosmic storm is a term used to define solar flares in the Hollywood films of superheroes like “The Fantastic Four”, but the term does make sense for our bodies. Although it’s all fiction in the movies the Cosmic Storm is basically extreme waves of high energy particles hitting our atmosphere, and penetrating through to administer high levels of radiation to our bodies. When this radiation hits us we can increase our possibilities of cancer in the form of tumors that develop from gamma radiation in light. “The gamma rays penetrate our body and affect the cells directly by forming a mutation, which then can cause these cells to be predators of healthy cells.” (Carlini, 4), this is the center of Carlini’s research.

When solar flares send such destructive energy into our atmosphere, then it’s like the ultra-violet light that we see every day does not seem so bad, since your loss of consciousness is at stake. Research studies have shown that lunar and solar energies can have harmful effects on our minds, Carlini explains,

Solar Flares affect the Central Nervous System (stomach lining), all brain activity (including equilibrium), along with human behavior and all psycho-physiological (mental-emotional-physical) response (Carlini, 3).

With changes like this we can often experience nervousness, anxiety, short-term memory problems, and prolonged headaches. The physical problems that occur on us could easily affect our minds, but psychotic behaviors are often times connected to loss of consciousness due to a blackout. It’s funny to think that our technology can go through a massive blackout due to solar flares, and then medical science shows it’s possible that we can too.

Vertigo is a very odd experience of disorientation, and due to the heat of these high frequency particles from the solar flares it is easy to see this as another problem. When you’re out in the sun too long you get sunburned and heat exhaustion. Vertigo is similar to heat exhaustion in the sense that with both you experience dizziness, difficulty breathing, nauseous, hot flashes, shaky, and lethargy. So when you see a massive solar flare erupt in the sky filling it with bright white light for a short time then fading to mixed colored auroras, then I am sure you will experience a bit of disorientation. Vertigo is actually fairly common to have at any time in a person’s day, since you can get it just by getting up from the couch too quickly or from stepping out of an elevator. Not always is Vertigo related to inner ear problems, but it is highly problematic in stages of extreme heat exhaustion. Because when you are disoriented your body has a hard time understanding what it needs to do next. Imagine a sudden nationwide heat exhaustion just from a burst of light. Scary as all these medical problems sound, it is valuable knowledge to have in preparation for a possible solar storm of such a large scale to occur.

Figure 3 Electrical Storm Ikaria Island
Figure 3 Electrical Storm Ikaria Island

We have many ways the climate can be affected on earth, but a solar flare that spikes on a high-level would cause intense electrical storms, microwave particles, irregular friction of ocean waves, and an increase in global warming. “NASA predicts huge solar storms to impact Earth in 2013” (Kazen, 1); Kazen gives us the updated warning behind NASA’s research. Since we are expecting these intense climate changes in the coming years, then I think a little detail on what might happen is in order. First of all electrical storms are not only a technological problem, because these storms can drop lightning bolts of about a dozen per second. I don’t want to be struck by lightning, but it’s predicted that these geomagnetic storms can carry so much amps of current in the air, that once the blackouts occur the lightning has nowhere else to strike but the ground we stand on. North America is laid out with mostly igneous rock which has low conductivity, and if a power plant is located over low conductivity rock, then geomagnetic storms would strike the power plant immediately trying to seek out the most conductive source. The result would be massive geomagnetic inductive current flowing into transformers throughout the United States, and will cause explosions to each individual transformer.

Now we cannot forget CMEs which are lead components of solar storms, and these create most of our destructive elements in the climate, especially microwave particles and irregular friction of ocean waves. Take a look at the threats we can receive from CMEs alone on Table 5: Solar Storm Threat Matrix (Marusek, 6),

Table 5. Solar Storm Threat Matrix
Table 5. Solar Storm Threat Matrix

With this in mind it provides an example of the dangers to coronal mass ejections, and CMEs create charged particles known as electro jets. These electro jets cause heated currents to pass through high altitudes sending extreme currents zipping back and forth through the magnetosphere. Our oceanic currents get hit completely off guard by this, and create seismic activity in the ocean bed from wave friction sending tsunami waves in all directions. Ultimately the electro jets weaken the Earth’s magnetic field, and then real danger strikes based on Marusek’s description.

During a solar storm, as the CME plasma cloud collides with the planet; Temperature spikes as high as 750 degrees Fahrenheit from microwave particles create something known as “hot spots” in the atmosphere (Marusek, 6).

At that temperature with a direct impact, then a human could easily be vaporized. These “hot spots” are not fictional, but scientific fact. Aside from the research put into this essay, I remember distinctively a lecture I once heard about the description of a microwave from the Sun. The details they went into was plant life decaying, water evaporating, and globules of heated plasma bursting from the sky as if they were “lava clouds.” However, keep in mind that “hot spots” only occur under the collapse of our magnetic field. But even then we would only get these microwaves in extremely weak openings, and the probability that these weak spots are closely connected is slim. Science believes that the “hot spots” would range in hundreds of miles
apart.

Figure 4 the Domino Effect
Figure 4 the Domino Effect

I have touched base on all factors of the solar flare impacts except for on a global scale, and that information is within the topic of global warming. To most people the subject of global warming is familiar, and might be generally understood based on the hype from news reports. However, global warming is something that you must think of largely, since it is on a global measure and can create a domino effect around the world. Your solar flares are the trigger to a cataclysmic force of nature, so imagine it as the finger that pushes the first domino over. What might start as increase amount of tornadoes, hurricanes, and oceanic currents; will ultimately end in the release of tons of hydrogen gas from the evaporation of water and ice, and volcanic activity with repeating earthquakes that will release deeply buried super volcanoes. The nature of global warming starts with the sun reaching an extremely hot temperatures beyond its normal temperature known as “solar maximum”, and Kelly explains that effect, “First during a solar maximum, the sun is emitting strong rays towards the Earth and this causes our planets to experience a warming trend” (Kelly, 1). This warming trend continues in the duration of the CME impact as stated previously, because the solar flare is instantaneous and releasing this energy for the CME and SPE to react. Once this warming on our planet occurs then everything begins to quickly unravel and all the horrible impacts stated previously begin to occur. Although, many of these forces are highly destructive, the probability of all of them occurring in a single solar maximum is highly unlikely. Because there is a positive result to a solar maximum, and that is every time the Sun goes through this intense heat up it will cool down just as quickly. The sun goes through these phases almost randomly, but they are always short lived and the sun goes dormant immediately after. What does that mean for planet Earth? Well unfortunately we will be experiencing the effects for days to possibly weeks, because a CME impact lasts for a few days and once you get the ball rolling it’s hard to stop it. The CME triggers all these volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, but we have to wait till those eruptions want to stop on their own. “The important thing to understand is that the Earth will continue seeing these cycles and the best thing we can do is prepare ourselves for them and what they may bring” (Kelly, 2).

Conclusion

Science defines a solar flare as a sudden brightening observed over the Sun's surface or the solar limb, which is interpreted as a large energy release. As described earlier the solar limb can be considered as the coronal mass ejection, and the large energy release is the solar storm that comes ramming into our atmosphere. There is much evidence related to the history of solar flares that have impacted Earth before. However, it’s also inconclusive to the point where we do not fully understand the reality of these impacts. I am sure that the potential of such an energy force could cause all the catastrophes and physical problems as mentioned, but I do not believe that naming random possibilities gives us evidence to submit an answer of pure destruction to mankind. Simply put by Ferris,

The uncertainties notwithstanding, Enlil’s forecast for the arrival of a potentially major storm on March 8th of this year was off by a mere 45 minutes. That storm turned out to be a bit of a dud. We may not be so lucky next time (Ferris, 5).

So it’s directed that we have possible threats out there in the universe, and a majority of them could be related to our Sun. What we should take from this is; many objections to the laws of science and mathematics could turn against us giving a wide-eyed view on a harsh reality. I for one believe that we will get a solar flare of large scale, and as a result it will put a lot of the world back to the days where we didn’t have electricity. However, it will only last a few months, and things will continue to normal dependability of technology.

Choose your status as of today. (Remember fear is only what you do not know of yourself)

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      Perter Griffin 5 years ago

      I’m a little confused. Let’s say a massive X class flare hits us directly and causes similar problems as it did in 1959. I have read that transformers and other electrical devices could be destroyed from proton energy forces. At the end of the article it says after a few months things world go back to normal.

      Which is it? If thousands of transformers and other electronics are damaged, is anything really normal again? Or was the article just referring to the large low damage effects of geomagnetic storms?

      Also, a few weeks with no technology seems like enough time to really see some changes. The deaths alone would be staggering. Riots, Fire, Looting etc.