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Author Topic: Massive Solar Storms  (Read 11534 times)
K9AIM
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« on: July 27, 2014, 09:21:03 AM »

If we were to experience a solar storm like that known as the Carrington Event in 1859, is there any type of radio communication that could work or would it all be disabled and for how long?  Specifically I was wondering if some digital modes would work in conditions where traditional modes would not or if something could be created that might work in such conditions?

CNN might not be the recommended place to learn about this, but the following article was a good read and it is good to see the topic get mainstream coverage...  

"That was a close one! Study: Massive solar storm barely missed us in 2012"
http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/25/tech/2012-solar-storm/index.html

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W0BTU
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« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2014, 11:29:30 AM »

During such a storm, pretty much all communications would be unusable for more than one reason.

Afterwards, you better have emergency power for your ham equipment, as that's likely to be all that works for a very long time afterwards. You can kiss the Internet, all phone service, your electrical service, etc. goodbye. And it gets worse.

There are a lot of doomsday prophecies for all the worry-warts in this world. But a repeat of the Carrington Event (Google it) is a very real possibility.

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K9AIM
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« Reply #2 on: July 27, 2014, 02:26:45 PM »

During such a storm, pretty much all communications would be unusable for more than one reason.

Afterwards, you better have emergency power for your ham equipment, as that's likely to be all that works for a very long time afterwards. You can kiss the Internet, all phone service, your electrical service, etc. goodbye. And it gets worse.

There are a lot of doomsday prophecies for all the worry-warts in this world. But a repeat of the Carrington Event (Google it) is a very real possibility.


it sounds like a real potential disaster, yet the first storm hit Aug 28, 1859 and evidently by the afternoon of Sept 2 it sounds like telegraph communication was back to normal  Huh

Quote
On the morning of September 2, the magnetic mayhem resulting from the second storm created even more chaos for telegraph operators. When American Telegraph Company employees arrived at their Boston office at 8 a.m., they discovered it was impossible to transmit or receive dispatches. The atmosphere was so charged, however, that operators made an incredible discovery: They could unplug their batteries and still transmit messages to Portland, Maine, at 30- to 90-second intervals using only the auroral current. Messages still couldn’t be sent as seamlessly as under normal conditions, but it was a useful workaround. By 10 a.m. the magnetic disturbance abated enough that stations reconnected their batteries, but transmissions were still affected for the rest of the morning.
http://www.history.com/news/a-perfect-solar-superstorm-the-1859-carrington-event

i suppose our power grids could go down for weeks though today unless protective measures are built into them to keep them from being so vulnerable.  If it happened in winter time it would not be good!  which leads me to wonder if the southern hemisphere was equally impacted in 1859?  In other words, does a Carrington type event most concentrated at the part of the Earth getting the direct hit or does it diffuse across for planet-wide impact?

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WA2ISE
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« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2014, 05:20:39 PM »

Well, fibre optic lines shouldn't be impacted.  Undersea fibre cables IIRC run the optic repeater amplifiers by way of a constant current sourced and sunk at locations where the cables enter the ocean at each country.  These see thousands of volts in normal operation anyway.   And if you have a power plant within your county, you may still have power.  Long distance electric distribution would get clobbered, but if the control operators of the lines and local power plants are reasonably alert, they should be able to disconnect from the long distance lines if a big solar flare is predicted and various line metering shows funny things starting to happen. 
If you live out in rural areas where the nearest power plant is a few hundred miles away, you'll probably lose power.  Larger cities with local power plants will be at least partially alive. 

It would still be a major PITA and the economy won't like it...
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KC9YTJ
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« Reply #4 on: July 27, 2014, 06:44:04 PM »

This may make for interesting reading.

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/02/14/homeland-security-takes-on-the-carrington-event/
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AD0AE
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« Reply #5 on: July 29, 2014, 10:36:10 PM »

This may be a little bit too sciencey, since this is from a peer reviewed journal, but this article might be of interest to folks: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/swe.20097/pdf

This was a study that was done by Dan Baker at the University of Colorado.  I think one of the interesting results was that extreme events can happen during any phase of the solar cycle.  In this case, it was just that the CME wasn't earth-directed.

73s,
AD0AE
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AD0AE
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« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2014, 10:44:52 PM »

k9aim - The short answer to your question is Yes, the whole planet would be affected.  X-ray events (since they are light) impact only the side of the earth that the sun is facing.  However, a CME of the carrington type would carry with it significant amounts of plasma and pressure that compress the earth's magnetic field.  Also some of that plasma from the CME would get trapped in the earth's magnetic fields, along with a variety of other mechanisms in the magnetosphere that take place during storms (I am not going to list them all, because there are many (many I am not totally familiar with).  One for example is a 'ramping up' of the ring current...).  That compression of the magnetic field would happen in both the northern and southern hemisphere.  One signature of that would be auroral that can be viewed at lower latitudes on the Earth, which was consistent with what was observed with the Carrington type event.  From what I understand, aurora were observed in Cuba (!!!!!!).  Growing up in Wisconsin, I saw them occasionally as a kid and that was for very active events (I recall one night seeing them while walking past the football stadium - with lights on.)  So to go as far south as Cuba is really a phenomenal event! 

Modeling the effects of a carrington type event is actually an active area of research. 
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