Scientists warn that a solar storm might "wipe out the internet" for weeks or months in 2023Scientists warn that a solar storm might "wipe out the internet" for weeks or months in 2023

Scientists warn that a solar storm might “wipe out the internet” for weeks or months in 2023

Scientists warn that a solar storm might "wipe out the internet" for weeks or months in 2023
Scientists warn that a solar storm might “wipe out the internet” for weeks or months in 2023

The same solar storm energy that makes us marvel at the Northern Lights could one day bring about what one researcher called an “internet apocalypse.”

Professor Peter Becker of George Mason University stated, “The internet is entering a more active time. It has come of age during a time when the sun has been relatively quiet.” “It’s the first time in human history that there’s been an intersection of increased solar activity with our dependence on the internet and our global economic dependence on the internet.”

On a project to develop an early warning system with the school and the Naval Research Laboratory, Becker is the principal investigator.


What might happen to Earth in a solar superstorm?

“A large number of (solar) flares have occurred,” stated Becker. “Flares, which are similar to muzzle flashes, occur when the sun brightens and we see the radiation. Next comes the coronal mass ejection (CME), which is like a cannon shot. Thus, while the coronal mass ejection may shoot off into space in any direction after the flash, we will be able to predict when it will ultimately approach Earth. And that means that before those particles really reach Earth and begin to interfere with the planet’s magnetic field, we will have roughly eighteen to twenty-four hours of warning.” 

A CME is a large, space-based blob of superheated matter, or plasma. The Earth’s magnetic field is distorted as a result of a percentage impact. The third prong of an electric plug, which typically provides a safe outlet for surplus electrical charges, can turn into “a big electrical circuit.”


“And then you get this kind of insidious thing where you could actually get current from the ground,” Becker explained. People often assume that because their computers are grounded, they are safe during an incident like this. However, if inductive currents are driven to the Earth’s surface, they can almost work in reverse, potentially scorching objects you had assumed to be safe. 

Vulnerabilities include the power grid, radio transmitters, satellites, subterranean fiber optic cable with copper sheaths, GPS and navigation systems, and communications equipment.

It has previously occurred.

It has previously occurred. Becker brings up the 1859 Carrington Event. The last time a CME made landfall on Earth was then.


“It actually took out the telegraph system; sparks were literally flying off the telegraph lines,” said Becker. “Some operators got electrocuted because the wires ended up carrying high voltage, which they were never supposed to do, but the magnetic field variations became so strong it almost became a generator system and drove these currents down telegraph wires.”

He claimed that the telegraph’s sturdy wires were more resilient than today’s flimsy electronics.

“So you lay that on top of the internet with its very delicate electronics; you’re talking about something that could really fry the system for a period of several weeks to months in terms of the time it would take to repair all the infrastructure—all of the electronic switches, all of these closets of electronics in all these office buildings,” Becker explained. “Everything might get fried. Now, this is getting pretty serious. It goes beyond simple communication. Of course, it also disrupts the economy.”

An estimated $10–20 billion in economic disruption to the U.S. economy alone occurs each day, according to Becker.

The frequency of solar storms is increasing as the solar cycle peaks.

Ice cores and tree rings provide proof of past superstorms that were far more powerful. A solar flare that may have been hundreds of times more powerful than the Carrington flare struck Earth some 14,000 years ago. 

The current solar cycle is expected to peak in 2024, according to NOAA forecasts.

Compared to initial predictions, NOAA predicts a stronger peak of solar activity in 2024.

According to Becker, forecasting solar storms is similar to forecasting earthquakes in that we are powerless to change the circumstances. Regarding the next ten years, he estimated that there is a 10% chance that “something really large is going to happen that could potentially wipe out the internet.”

How can electronics be safeguarded?

Thus, he is modeling flares while observing the sun with his team. He said flares arrive on Earth in eight minutes. That starts the clock on the potential disruption of the magnetic field in the next 18 to 24 hours. 

“Every minute counts when there is a warning because satellites can be switched to safe mode. Transformers can be disconnected from the grid to prevent overheating, according to Becker. Thus, there are steps you can take to lessen the issue. Furthermore, you are discussing the longer-term topic of hardening the internet. Of course, that presents an economic difficulty because it functions somewhat like an insurance policy. To truly harden the system, it would cost trillions of dollars, and you might never need it.”

According to him, the majority of big businesses currently lack the financial motivation to harden their systems.

 Tag: solar storm, solar storm, solar storm

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