Friday, June 08, 2012

NatGeo publishes major article (and warning) on solar superstorms; also, a book on spectacular scenic drives


I’ve noted on a couple other blogs the disturbing June 2012 issue of National Geographic, with its cover story “Solar Super Storms: How they could impact our high-tech world”, on p. 38, by Timothy Ferris.

The writer explains how stars are made of plasma, another phase of matter, and explains the mechanics of sunspots and solar storms, leading to coronal mass ejections.

It appears that electric utilities have so far done little to ground their infrastructure from the possible effects of a really big storm, the last of which occurred in 1859, came in two waves, and squashed the Earth’s magnetosphere to one-tenth its normal depth.  The other large events occurred in 1989 (Quebec) and 1921.

However, experts can detect the likelihood of major CME’s about four days in advance.  If a massive and long-lasting power grid outage is going to occur (especially in more polar latitudes), how will politicians tell the populace to prepare?  Will they even try.  Or will a president say, "prepare yourselves: you're past way of life will end forever in 72 hours"?

Attention to space weather sounds as critical a public policy issue as climate change. 

Very large CME’s could even disable electronics in some cars and computers, even if disconnected.  (But probably not as much as an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, from a high altitude nuclear blast, or possibly from ground microwave weapons supposedly possessed only by the military.

National Geographic is also selling a $10 book “The World’s Most Scenic Drives: 101 Spectacular Trips”, Barbara A. Noe as Senior Editor, 128 pages. Locally, the Blue Ridge Parkway made the list.  The inside front cover has a photo of a bizarre tunnel in Taiwan.  Look for this in your supermarket. 

Related: Book by Lawrence E. Joseph, reviewed here Nov. 9, 2010. 

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