General Question

krrazypassions's avatar

How do we survive the solar storm expected in 2012?

Asked by krrazypassions (1332 points ) July 3rd, 2011

Heard about the Solar Storm expected around 2012? Here are two websites dedicated to the expected solar storm that came up on Google that will brief you about Solar Storm in different ways

Solar Storm Warning this one doesn’t look official, but contains grave description of reasons and effects of the solar storm and tips for surviving the catastrophe.

Solar Stormwatch “Solar scientists need you! Help them spot explosions on the Sun and track them across space to Earth. Your work will give astronauts an early warning if dangerous solar radiation is headed their way. And you could make a new scientific discovery”

News report dated 9 June 2011— This Week’s Solar Flare Illuminates the Grid’s Vulnerability

Compels asking of this pressing question
How do we survive the solar storm expected in 2012? What are the levels of awareness about this storm in general public? Is it really going to be that catastrophic as described in places like solar-storm-warning.com If so, then what are we supposed to be doing right now??

Please list any useful references that you know or find out while trying to figure out a sensible answer and solution.

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48 Answers

ucme's avatar

Sunglasses, a big hat & a shitload of sunblock!

krrazypassions's avatar

@ucme This storm is supposed to attack the electrical and electronics aspects of our planet- power grids, all electronic and electrical devices- communication system.. everything! We live in a very much electrical and electronic world. What are we going to do about that??

On individual levels, these are some measures

But on social scale, the implication of no power supply, water supply, communications, economic transactions on a global scale is very scary indeed.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Do you remember 1989? Do you remember the solar storm of 1989? There was a power cut for 2 hours and some computers stopped working for a bit. It was trully terrifying. I had to leave work early that day and go to the pub to deal with the stress of it all.

krrazypassions's avatar

@Lightlyseared the aforementioned news article (NY Times) says
“In the worst-case scenario, the stockpile of spare transformers would fall far short of replacement needs. Urban centers across the continent would be without power for many months or even years”
I wonder if anyone will forget that

the100thmonkey's avatar

I think you’re missing the point of the glib responses – there is no evidence indicating that there is going to be a massive solar storm in 2012.

Lightlyseared's avatar

And there was that big one in 2003 that lasted 2 months. In fact these things happen every 11 or so years and have been for quite some time. You will note that civilisation has yet to collapse.

krrazypassions's avatar

Why are there so many articles on Solar Storm in 2012, many of them from respected sources like NASA, New York Times, Wired ..
Just google “solar storm” and “solar storm 2012”. I also found some “2012 solar catastrophe a hoax” pages, but pages like this make me feel the talks about it being a hoax are hoax.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Google mayan 2012 and you’ll get the same. I don’t believe that the myans knew the world was going to end just like I wasn’t too worried when the earth was going to end in may this year. For some reason the year 2012 has embedded itself in peoples minds and as the end of the world so much so that theres a wiki page about the whole thing. There are a load of crackpot conspiracy theorists out there and there are just as many people willing to make money off them selling books and stuff.

krrazypassions's avatar

Yes! “Solar Storm 2012 and Mayan 2012 prediction” is a strange coincidence indeed! While Mayan prediction can be easily debunked on the basis of its antiquity and possible misinterpretations, the solar storm forecast is based on scientific evidence!
NASA article http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/next-solarstorm.html

An avalanche of blackouts carried across continents by long-distance power lines could last for weeks to months as engineers struggle to repair damaged transformers. Planes and ships couldn’t trust GPS units for navigation. Banking and financial networks might go offline, disrupting commerce in a way unique to the Information Age. According to a 2008 report from the National Academy of Sciences, a century-class solar storm could have the economic impact of 20 hurricane Katrinas.

krrazypassions's avatar

Q:What’s the problem?

A: We’ve got a big, interconnected grid that spans across the country. Over the years, higher and higher operating voltages have been added to it. This has escalated our vulnerability to geomagnetic storms. These are not a new thing. They’ve probably been occurring for as long as the sun has been around. It’s just that we’ve been unknowingly building an infrastructure that’s acting more and more like an antenna for geomagnetic storms.

Q: What do you mean by antenna?

A: Large currents circulate in the network, coming up from the earth through ground connections at large transformers. We need these for safety reasons, but ground connections provide entry paths for charges that could disrupt the grid.

source- http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/04/2012storms/

krrazypassions's avatar

So, something tells me that this is NOT TO BE TAKEN LIGHTLY!!!

the100thmonkey's avatar

Something tells me that you’ve made up your mind and aren’t going to listen to reason.

Oh, and the NASA article you linked to doesn’t actualy mention 2012 at all. Your behaviour indicates that you have the 2012 numbewr fixed in your mind, but the Carrington event in 1859 does not necessarily have to repeat.The NASA articles and warnings at least have the sense not to say “OMG” Itz teh end of the world!”...

wilma's avatar

I plan on seeing as many auroras as I can!
Thanks for telling me about this event!

CunningLinguist's avatar

Gullible people are fun to watch.

jca's avatar

Were you around New Year’s Eve 1999? There was supposed to be a big catastrophe when “Y2K” arrived, which was the arrival of the year 2000. There had been committees at all levels of government, corporations, etc. on how to deal with computer systems that may not make a smooth transition to the year 2000. Transportation, communication, computer systems – all kinds of things were predicted to be in jeopardy. I had friends that had a power generator and food and water stockpiled. When the New Year rang in, we were at their house. The clock struck 12: and nothing happened. It was all paranoia.

krrazypassions's avatar

@All storms have been happening since ages- but the threat of a solar storm in today’s world governed by electricity is much more pronounced- its these electrical-electronic based systems that get mostly affected due to very high electrical surges- and we all being dependent on them, will bear the brunt!

@the100thmonkey Here’s a NASA article that does mention 2012. Solar Max predicted at 2012

Now, the article mentions predictions for 2010, 2011 and 2012 years- and considering nothing serious happened in 2010 and first half of 2011, we can laugh it off saying its all “paranoia”.
But we did get a preview as reported here (same NYtimes report as mentioned in question details).

@jca Solar Max and Solar Storms are real. It happened in 1859— telegraphs were reported to function without being connected to power supply… In 1989 also, minor incidences of power loss for few hours due to breakdown of transformers were reported.. So, the threat is a real one, a natural one! Not like Y2K..

@CunningLinguist wonder what you will have to say if and when solar superstorm hits the planet and paralyses our electrical-electronics-based systems..

jca's avatar

@krrazypassions: Then the govt and electrical companies will worry about it. There is nothing you can do about it and worrying won’t help. If you have an excessive level of anxiety, medication and/or therapy might be helpful.

WasCy's avatar

The same way we’ve survived every crisis since the beginning of time, I expect: liquor, food and sex. No wonder we’re so dumb, fat and happy all the time.

Bring on the crisis!

Lightlyseared's avatar

The problem is your getting all worked up by “The Worst Case Senario”. Like the TSA, stripping elderly passengers and poking around in their diapers in case they have hidden a bomb there, you have to realise that just becaue it is theoretically possible that something may happen that does not mean it is theoretically probable, As there is currently no way to predict when a solar flare will occur or how serious the geomagnetic storm willbe when they reach the magnetosphere the only defence would be to shut down all electrical equipment everytime. For the US alone that would cost in region $10 billion every time and thats not including the lost revenue from business, deaths in hospitals as life support equipment is shut off etc and all for something that might not even be a problem and that we won’t know if its a problem till afterwards.

marinelife's avatar

I think the fears of what will happen are exaggerated just like Y2K.

RocketGuy's avatar

People worry about possible solar storms, but not about Global Warming? Actual events like record tornadoes, floods, rain are not as convincing as rumor websites?

the100thmonkey's avatar

@krrazypassions – yes, it does mention 2012, but the article states nothing about massive solar storms taking out earth’s electrical grid.

You are making connections where the scientists do not. You might be right, but that won’t be because you know what you’re talking about.

Did you use to have an account under the name of summum?

Coloma's avatar

I wouldn’t even worry about it. All you have is right NOW!

You could be hit by a bus tomorrow, or today or plow your car into a bus. haha

I’ll think about it the day before, assuming I’ll still be here on that day, which is still an assumption. lol

Hibernate's avatar

Migration to where is snow so we’d have to wear a lot of clothes .

krrazypassions's avatar

@the100thmonkey Okay, so you’ve certainly not read the scientific matter and evidence related to solar activity and geomagnetic storms- I am not the one making any connections! Geomagnetic storms happen when solar activity is in its max-its an established fact and the article mentions 2012 as solar max- scientists at NASA and elsewhere have simulations and information about solar activity that suggest a possible threat around 2012.. scientists are improving their methods of space forecasting, there are STEREO probes monitoring solar activity closely- all this and more is being done just so that whenever they spot a huge flare or coronal mass ejection, they can alert us so that we get off the grid until the storm is gone..
Having said all that, I think its quite easy to debunk something with 2012 year associated with it because there is no scarcity of predictions of the end of the world that have failed and because they made a movie 2012 ( and most things in movie are fiction therefore its all baseless in the real world). Solar storms are real threats in our technologically-dependent world and its based on sound scientific observation, reasoning and simulations. Beware!
and no, I’ve always been krrazypassions!

MissAnthrope's avatar

Funny how the human psyche is more drawn to fret and worry about hypothetical doomsday scenarios while entirely ignoring current things that will eventually lead to said scenarios (i.e. global warming, pollution, etc.).

krrazypassions's avatar

@Lightlyseared True, its a worst-case scenario- but the systems can be designed for worst case scenarios so that we can minimize damage as you have mentioned. Also, forecasting methods are improving, so day by day we have better chances of knowing about the storm in advance :)
@marinelife It does depend on the magnitude of the storm- like, nothing happened when a solar flare glanced us few days ago- but a heavy storm will greatly affect our electricity-based systems if our current knowledge of physics is correct.
@RocketGuy I think there is more awareness about Global Warming than a solar storm..
@MissAnthrope This is not about a hypothetical end-of-the-world scenario- most of us will live to see and bear the effects of such a storm- the threat is based on scientific knowledge and much research and monitoring of the solar activity is going on. (Just as global warming, pollution etc. have been and are being studied and awareness about their ill-effects is being spread in the public)

krrazypassions's avatar

@WasCy @Coloma Yeah! Enjoying the moment- living in the present- its all good! :)
@Hibernate I was wondering if we should wear space suits in case high levels of radiation reach the earth’s surface.

Coloma's avatar

Hearing that song by the Firm ” and I’m radioactive’’ in my head right now. LOL

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

The 2012 solar storm was rescheduled for yesterday. Did you miss it? Oh don’t worry, ther’ll be anuthuh one tamarrah.

the100thmonkey's avatar

@krrazypassions – Now you’re making negative claims! (FYI, this is usually a bad idea – you have no idea what I have and haven’t read)

You’ve made a positive claim (good for you), but you’re struggling to find the evidence to support it. Look at the title of the thread, and tell me that you aren’t expecting a solar storm in 2012 that will DESTROY THE WORLD!

Basically, grow up.

incendiary_dan's avatar

I’ll do the same thing I do every day…try to take over the world!

No wait, that was “Pinky and the Brain”. What I do is garden, hunt, gather, make my own stuff, etc. There’s a fairly small chance a solar storm would damage the infrastructure to that extent, though if it does happen soon it’ll be within the next couple years, since this is a high point in the cycle. Could miss us entirely, though. Whatever, I have a resilient and increasingly self-sufficient lifestyle anyway. I hope to be at least partially off-grid by then, anyway.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@the100thmonkey The OP doesn’t actually say anything about the storm “destroying the world”, though certainly gives that sort of impression.

For the record, I kind of hope for that sort of storm, entirely to stop the world being destroyed.

YARNLADY's avatar

@WasCy has the correct answer.

krrazypassions's avatar

@the100thmonkey I’m not making this up. I know its only a possibility, but whats wrong with being aware of such a possibility and devising a plan to deal with it? If we say “nothing is going to happen, and even if it happens, we cant do anything about it”, then we are surely doomed.

We still have to get a sure-shot alert like “OH! The solar superstorm is on its way! Get off the grid! now!”, but the solar forecasting methods are advancing and solar activity is being monitored closely because the threat is a real one and we need to have maximum possible time to prepare ourselves.

I apologize about the negative claim about knowing what you have read and what you haven’t. I feel we all should be aware of it and have some Plan A and Plan B to avoid a global panic in case there is an emergency- we don’t know how much buffer time we would have after the storm is detected and before it passes the Earth.

While it may not be directly fatal (like they show in movies & I am not imagining that kind of stuff :p), a global breakdown of electricity and electronics in the 21st century, even for a few weeks can cause a lot of chaos. It wont be the end of the world, but it will still be a huge setback that can change the course of the world story. We can avoid this resulting chaos and this was meant to be the main focus of this discussion. I felt “surviving the storm” was synonymous with “dealing with the global chaos resulting from it”. I admit that instead of asking “How can we survive the solar storm expected in 2012”, I should have been more explicit like “How can we deal with the chaos resulting from a major solar storm?”- but I thought that people would infer that from the links posted in the question.

wilma's avatar

@krrazypassions please let us all know if there is a large coronal Mass ejection, I want to be sure to check for the aurora borealis, I usually have a pretty good view of those.

jca's avatar

@krrazypassions: Does it pay to have anxiety for a year or more over something you cannot personally control and may not ever happen?

WasCy's avatar

@krrazypassions

I really don’t want to get you stirred up (really I don’t), but have you considered that solar flares (which happen pretty regularly, after all) are not as much to get worked up over as, say, the likely (someday, but no one can say when – and certainly hugely devastating when it does occur) collapse and subsequent Atlantic tsunami when Cumbre Vieja on Las Palmas (Canary Islands) falls into the ocean?

That, or the day that the Chinese leadership someday says, “Fuck it, America. We not only don’t want any more of your fucking debt, but we’re selling what we have for whatever we can get for it.”

Both of those will be actual events, not reliant upon “galactic planes” and other wild speculations. Earthquakes, tsunamis and debt implosions. Those things really happen and have devastating consequences. Solar flares? What have they done to us, really?

the100thmonkey's avatar

@WasCy – that Rense dude has simply awesome hair.

@krrazypassions – I’m a sceptic. I find it to be the single best way to keep a clear head. I’m not saying “nothing will happen”. I am, however, asking for evidence to support the claim that a massive CME, which will knock out the electricity grid, is predicted for 2012. You haven’t stated directly that you think it will be the end of the world, but your primary source for the “disaster in 2012” interpretation is – as you yourself noted – not authoritative or official; it joins dots scientists won’t. Moreover, look at the title of the thread.

The documents you have linked indicate either that there is a probability of a massive CME in 2012 or outline worst case scenarios should a CME hit the Earth. Apart from the dodgy website, not one article does both.

I am not saying that we don’t understand solar weather well enough. Nevertheless, I do believe that no solar scientist worth their salt will make the prediction that you have. A massive solar storm might eject enough plasma to knock out the power and electrical systems of the entire planet and send us back to the 18th century. All those charged particles might, though, miss, and go sailing off into deep space after an eruption on the far side of the sun.

WasCy's avatar

@the100thmonkey oh shit, that’s whose link I posted? Gahhh… I’m embarrassed.

I’ve seen the information from others, so it’s not like he’s a primary source, but still… gahhh.

mattbrowne's avatar

It can be seen as an opportunity as well. Let’s make sure the contingency plans work. Let’s test the diesel generators in nuclear power plants and hospitals. And all the rest as well.

Y2K was not a hype by the way, @marinelife. Little happened because IT was well prepared. I remember the years 1998 and 1999. Software changes were necessary. I resented the public outcry in early 2000. It was very unfair to mock the IT people who had to work so much overtime for months.

krrazypassions's avatar

@mattbrowne Interesting… can you please elaborate about the opportunities and contingency plans.. do you know anything that is going to be tested during a major solar storm?
I was wondering about methods of tapping the energy in the solar storm… any ideas?

krrazypassions's avatar

@wilma Check these pages regularly for solar activity updates-
http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/today.html
http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/SWN/

mattbrowne's avatar

@krrazypassions – You mind find this article useful:

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2011/02/23/3145837.htm

governments around the world have been working on contingency plans and that IPS has been helping Australian electricity providers to be ready for such an event. In Australia if it’s a really large event they consider separating all the state grids for a few hours to minimize the chance of that happening.

I saw the tapping energy question, didn’t reply because I’m not very optimistic here in the short term. When we master capturing the energy of lightnings, we can eventually progress to building “orbiting solar wind parks”. Lightnings are down to earth while solar storms are not.

Nullo's avatar

It ended up being a bit on the boring side.

mattbrowne's avatar

It’s 2013 and we survived.

YARNLADY's avatar

Hi @mattbrowne – are you sure? I read there was a huge explosion on the sun last week. We might just be shadows of the real world.

choreplay's avatar

Oh, oh, oh, I want to be the penumbra part!!!!

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