Sunday, June 10, 2012

Solar Storms: Part 1

The aurora borealis or “northern lights” have lit the skies in the arctic region for millions of years. The first occupants of Earth believed it to be from the gods, but we know different. They come from space or solar “storms”. The space weather is usually an 11 year cycle. The solar storm results in a variety of changes. The first sign that the solar storms are worsening is seen in the light show in the arctic region.
In the 1800s the storms triggered magnetic changes to the network of wires that transported telegraph and telephone communications. They were so powerful that the telegraph operators did not need a battery power to operate their machines and several were even electrocuted. Those lines were above the ground – in the atmosphere, but even if they were below waters as in the Atlantic cable between Scotland and Newfoundland, surges were felt and caused blackouts.
The solar storms also affect the pipelines by causing them to corrode at a faster rate. This corrosion resulted in the explosion of a gas pipeline near the Trans-Siberian Railway in 1989. The Alaskan oil pipeline was built in the 1970s and built with improvements learned from earlier solar storms which would hopefully have allowed the pipeline to last through several solar storms.
Things in the atmosphere are also affected by solar storms. Much of the Earth’s atmosphere is filled with satellites. These solar storms can cause magnetic changes which can cause the satellites to flip. The satellites can be sensitive to the solar storms and many companies are coming up with ways to provide shielding to protect their investments.
Most people will notice some sort of change dude to the solar storms with the loss of TV channels, cell phone calls dropped, or the internet connections. These solar storms are a nuisance and will cost millions of dollars to understand but have been happening for millions of years and will continue to happen. We must continue to study the solar storms in an effort to learn from them. 


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