Earth is constantly in danger from dangerous solar storms. Can humanity handle a giant solar storm impact? Know what the NOAA said.
Solar storms have been striking the Earth with increasing rapidity over the last few weeks as the Sun marches towards the solar maximum in its 11-year cycle. They have caused fascinating auroras on the poles apart from interfering with GPS and causing radio blackouts. The Earth has been lucky so far as these solar storms have not been powerful enough to cause more damage. However, they have also raised one important question- what if an extreme solar storm hits Earth? Are we prepared for it? Undoubtedly, the effect of a fierce solar storm can be destructive to our every day lives. For instance, back in 2003, a surprise solar storm disrupted hundreds of flights all over the world, caused the loss of control of many low Earth orbiting satellites and people in Sweden were left without electricity as the power grid went down.
But that was not the most dreadful instance of a solar storm on Earth. The Carrington Event in 1859 and the 1921 New York Railroad Storm, were two most powerful solar storms in recorded history which caused widespread terror on Earth. Both of these solar storms at that time disrupted telegraph services all over the world. But things have changed now. Telegraph is a story of the past now, in the today’s world, many other technologies, including the internet and satellites are equally vulnerable to space weather outbursts.
The problem is that space weather forecasters are only marginally better at predicting those storms than they were in 2003, Bill Murtagh, NOAA’s SWPC program coordinator told Space.com. Space weather forecasters still have very little information about what’s happening on the side facing away from Earth, the report suggested. The fact is, our life-giving star is still spinning on its axis like before and by monitoring visible sunspots, scientists do get a rough idea of the upcoming solar flare but chances to know the exact time and strength is difficult.
So, will Earth be able to tackle the impact of fierce solar storms?
“There’s no doubt we’re better now than we were in many areas,” Murtagh told Space.com. The incident back in February 2022 clearly showed the impact of solar storms in today’s world! SpaceX had lost a batch of new Starlink satellites after launching them into a mild geomagnetic storm. Murtagh admitted that a storm of the scale of the Carrington event can create havoc on satellites today.
However, he suggests that in the coming years, space weather forecasting will be easier and better with a new mission by the European Space Agency, called Vigil in 2025. It will allow forecasters to look “round the corner” of the not so visible sides of the sun.