Washington Post Discusses Potential Space Weather Apocalypse

Steve Tracton wrote in the Washington Post, 11 July 2012, an article titled Are we ready yet for potentially disastrous impacts of space weather? He had just returned from the Space Weather Enterprise Forum in Washington on 5 June.


The sun sends out a constant flow of particles called the solar wind, and it occasionally erupts with giant clouds of solar material, called coronal mass ejections, or explosions of X-rays called solar flares. These events can rattle our space environment out to the very edges of our solar system. In space, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, keeps an eye on our nearest star 24/7. SDO captures images of the sun in 10 different wavelengths, each of which helps highlight a different temperature of solar material. In this video, we experience SDO images of the sun in unprecedented detail. Presented in ultra-high definition, the video presents the dance of the ultra-hot material on our life-giving star in extraordinary detail, offering an intimate view of the grand forces of the solar system. 

Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center


The conclusion of the Post article was that:

...there is no operational plan to recover nationally from the immediate and longer term impacts of a significant solar storm on the electric power supply and most other technology-based systems we take for granted.

The article puts the threat of an extreme space weather event that could take out the power grid at:

perhaps 12% over the next decade

The challenge after such an event, according to Tracton, would be:

...dealing with blown and extremely hard to replace high voltage electric transformers across several states.


These transformers take several years to replace under ideal circumstance.

According to Tracton,

The national power grids are designed to withstand a single failure such as this without leading to a cascade to a more widespread collapse of the system. However, cumulative damages over time might increase vulnerability to transformers and other susceptible components of the nation’s power grid.

Benjamin Dancer

Benjamin is the author of the literary thriller Patriarch Run, the first book in a series that will include Fidelityand The Story of the Boy. He also writes about parenting, education, sustainability and national security.

Benjamin works as an Advisor at a Colorado high school where he has made a career out of mentoring young people as they come of age. His work with adolescents has informed his stories, which are typically themed around fatherhood and coming-of-age.

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