Rare Solar Storm Hits Earth

Tuesday August 9, 2022

Last weekend (Aug. 7, 2022), a moderate solar storm was observed on Earth. “The G2 geomagnetic storm…was the result of a solar wind stream, or charged particles from the sun, striking Earth's magnetic field.” (livescience.com). Extreme Solar storms are fairly rare as they only happen about 4 times every sun cycle (11 years). These storms are generally safe to humans because our atmosphere shields us from the dangerous particles, but our technology can be heavily affected. This was the case in 1859 when one of the most devastating solar storms took place.


The Carrington Event

On Sep. 1st, 1859 Richard Carrington–an amateur skywatcher in London–witnessed a “white light flare” that lasted about 5 minutes. The next day, Earth experienced a massive geomagnetic storm that caused havoc among telegraph networks and allowed the Aurora Borealis to be seen as far south as Hawaii. Carrington “realized that the solar flare he'd seen was almost certainly the cause of this massive geomagnetic disturbance. This was a connection that had never previously been made, according to NASA Spaceflight. The solar storm of 1859 is now known as the Carrington Event in his honor.” (Space.com).


This storm was so strong that it caused telegraph machines across the world to spark and some even started fires, igniting papers on desks close by. The Northern Lights were witnessed as far south as Cuba and Hawaii, and the Southern Lights were visible as far north as Santiago, Chile. Telegraph workers were surprised that after the event, they weren’t able to send or receive messages like normal.

What if the Carrington Event Happened Today?

Thankfully, there hasn’t been a solar storm as strong as the Carrington Event since and it's estimated that a solar storm that strong only happens about every 500 years. But what would happen if a storm of a similar magnitude did happen today? Many believe that it would cause a mass internet outage and render many communication systems unusable. NASA Spaceflight has predicted that a geomagnetic storm of that magnitude would cause trillions in damages to the United States alone.


Preparing for a Solar Storm

There’s not too much more to prepare for a Solar Storm that wouldn’t be covered by a natural disaster kit. The biggest threat from a solar storm is a blackout which means no power and likely no internet for an extended period of time. To prepare, you should have non-perishable food and water stocked in your home. You should also have battery powered flashlights, matches and some cash on-hand.