Thursday, June 14, 2012

Solar Storms

Solar storms are also known as geomagnetic storms (Rincon, 2012). Solar storms are created from magnetic energy that is released from the sun (Hathaway, 2007). A solar flare or a coronal mass ejection, also known as a CME, enters the Earth's atmosphere to cause a true geomagnetic storm (Rincon, 2012). Solar storms are important because of their many effects on Earth. Along with these major effects, solar storms send massive mounts of radiation to Earth, enough to be equivalent to 100 x-rays (National Geographic Preppers, 2012).
Coronal Mass Ejections and Solar Flares are a major factor when it comes to creating Solar Storms. Coronal Mass Ejections are actually "huge bubbles of gas threaded with magnetic field lines that are ejected from the sun over the course of several hours" (Hathaway, 2007). Coronal mass ejections have been seen during eclipses for several minutes but can occur without an eclipse happening; they can occur anywhere from 2-3 times a day to once a week (Hathaway, 2007). Solar flares are "intense burst of radiation that occur when magnetic energy is released from the sun's atmosphere (Rincon, 2012). Coronal mass ejections and solar flares most often go hand-in-hand, though coronal mass ejections can happen by themselves. Once a solar flare or coronal mass ejection collides with Earth, a "solar storm" is created.
The sunspot cycle determines when a coronal mass ejection will occur (Hathaway, 2007). The sunspot cycle is completed around every 11 years (Odenwald, 1999). Geomagnetic storms occur at the peak of those sunspot cycle (Rincon, 2012). This is probably because more solar flares and coronal mass ejections should occur at the peak of the cycle, allowing more of them to enter the Earth's atmosphere.
Solar storms have many, many effects on Earth and on the things that affect people on Earth. The solar storm that is supposed to happen in 2012 or 2013 is predicted to cause of over two trillion dollars ($2,000,000,000,000) of initial damages that will need to be repaired (Rincon, 2012). These effects include damage to power lines, to communication lines, and to pipelines. Satellites and navigation systems also have problems because of the solar storms. Most technology is affected, too.
One of the worst things these solar storms mess up is the magnetosphere. The magnetosphere "protects its denizens from the worst effects of cosmic rays" (Rincon, 2012). These solar storms truly create the "holes" in the atmosphere that is usually created by the burning of fossil fuels. Little did people know that the Earth's atmosphere had actually been getting holes since the beginning of time, thanks to these solar storms.
In the 1800s, storms such as geomagnetic storms and solar storms changed some of the magnetic energy in telephone communication wires and telegraph wires. Operators of these wires didn't need to use any battery - or any kind of power source, for that matter  - because of the strength of the power in these storms. Several people were electrocuted. Those lines were all above ground but even underground cables and lines, such as the Atlantic cable between Scotland and Newfoundland, have felt surges from the storms and blackouts occurred everywhere the wires usually provided a service for. (Odenwald, 1999)
Pipelines corrode at a much faster rate when Earth receives a storm solar storm. In the 1970s, the Alaskan Oil Pipeline was built with improvements that were acquired after previous solar storms. Hopefully, this would have allowed the pipeline to last through several solar storms. Another occurrence of corroded pipelines have very negative affects happen in 1989. A gas pipeline exploded near the Tran-Siberian Railway, as a result of the corrosion. (Odenwald, 1999)
Satellites are also sensitive to the powers of a strong solar storm. They are in the Earth's atmosphere, so they are even more probable to have problems then things on Earth. Many satellites actually flip when the storms cause magnetic changes in the atmosphere (Odenwald, 1999).
These are all some things that happen during solar storms that most people might not be aware of, apart from possibly seeing a clip or two about them on the news. The news might not even talk about the effects of the geomagnetic storms, but just about how much it will cost in damages. Most people are definitely more familiar with problems that the solar storms cause to items they use everyday, Television channels are often lost, especially satellite stations, for reasons previously stated. A lot of cell phone calls get dropped, even in areas that usually provide the best service to cell phones. Internet connections will also experience problems. Electricity will be affected, causing blackouts and other problems when power lines are damaged. (Odenwald, 1999)
But other, less harmful things can occur after a solar storm as well. The aurora borealis or northern lights are an example of a seemingly harmless effect of a geomagnetic storm (Odenwald, 1999). This light show seems to just provide a beautiful coloration to the Arctic night sky that people can enjoy.
It could take over a year fro everything to be fixed, so be sure you are prepared form when a solar storm happens. TO prepare for a solar storm is very similar to preparing for any natural disaster. Make sure you have enough food and water to last you a while. You also want to make sure you have common household necessities that most people take for granted, such as toilet paper. When you run out of these items you will be sorry and in need of much help, which might not come for a while. Have a nice supply of water, food, and common items, so that no matter what happens when the solar storm occurs, you are prepared (National Geographic Preppers, 2012). Miniature portable cooking stoves are also something you should have in case of an emergency. When choosing which one you want, you should go with the one that takes liquid fuel to power (National Geographic Preppers, 2012).
Banks and other monetary storage places will be closed if their electric goes out, and you wont be able to take out much money. If you plan on vacationing, you should wait until after 2013 because if the storm occurs while you are away and it is a bad storm, you will be stuck wherever you are (National Geographic Preppers, 2012).

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