Solar storms originating from the Sun are quite common, they hit our planet from time to time causing auroras and occasionally making some problems with electric and satellite networks. The magnetic field of our planet protects us from solar flares, but there is a chance for a huge solar storm to happen during the next decade, a storm that could match the catastrophic Carrington event.
Carrington event happened during September 1859. The powerful solar flare ever recorded made telegraph systems in North America and Europe to stop functioning, telegraph operators got struck with electricity. And instead in Polar Regions, during the Carrington event, auroras appeared all over the world.
Back then, a solar storm of such great intensity caused massive problems, but those problems could be nothing if compared to potential harm caused if a solar flare of similar intensity happening today.
The chances for the event to happen in the next decade are around 12 percent, according to a study conducted by space physicist Pete Riley, of Predictive Science in San Diego, California. The study got published in Space Weather dealt with the economic impact an event of such intensity could bring down on Earth. Back in 2012, a powerful solar flare almost sent humanity back into the 19th century, barely missing our planet.
If a powerful solar flare happened, it would make electric grids to collapse, leaving billions of people without electricity. Power blackouts would happen all over the world and would count for 49 percent of the possible economic costs.
“By exploring the sensitivity of the blackout zone, we show that on average the direct economic cost incurred from disruption to electricity represents only 49% of the total potential macroeconomic cost,” researchers wrote.
They also noted that “Therefore, if indirect supply chain costs are not considered when undertaking cost-benefit analysis of space weather forecasting and mitigation investment, the total potential macroeconomic cost is not correctly represented.”
In the US alone, two-thirds of the population would suffer from blackouts, with a daily economic loss of around $40 billion and an international supply chain loss of $7 billion.
According to different experts, power blackouts could be as short as a couple of hours or days, while others predict that power outages could be way more serious, knocking out power grids for weeks, even months.
The study author Edward Oughton, from Cambridge Judge Business School, noted that “We felt it was important to look at how extreme space weather may affect domestic U.S. production in various economic sectors.”
Outside the US, China would be most affected, followed by Canada and Mexico. The two countries provide lots of services, goods, and raw materials for the US economy. In the US, the most severely impacted part would be manufacturing followed by government, finance and insurance, and property.