Scientists at the American Geophysical Union calculated what consequences may follow a massive solar storm. They found that the eventuality of such storms may cost the United States billions of dollars.
The Space Weather magazine has recently published the study. It states that solar storms may cause electricity blackouts that will cause the United States to spend $40 billion daily in order to fix the problem. They study created a worst case scenario regarding the blackouts so that they could calculate the maximum loss the United States might encounter.
The results indicated that approximately half of the financial losses were to occur outside the blackout zones. Also, almost 66 percent of the population would be affected by these blackouts. The domestic loss was approximated at $41.5 billion per day with an additional $7 billion lost through the international supply chain. The researchers put more accent on the costs that might occur inside the blackout area, without the possible international expenses involved.
The American Geophysical Union received help in the research from the University of Cape Town, the British Geological Survey, the British Antarctic Survey, and the Cambridge Center for Risk Studies.
But what are more precisely solar storms? The researchers have also explained the phenomenon. At the beginning, these storms start with solar flares. These flares are common on the surface of the sun and may occur even more often during the peak of the solar cycle that lasts for 11 years.
The most powerful of these flares may be accompanied by other energetic events that are known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs). During these CMEs, magnetic fields and plasma bubbles are spit from the star. After a few hours, these materials are gathered and lifted at high speeds of a million miles per hour. Shocks from these waves may propagate through our solar system and cause extreme cosmic weather.
Although such solar storms occur quite often, they rarely affect Earth. The last time when Earth was affected by a solar storm was in March 13th, 1989. The effects were not so dramatic as expected. The solar storm caused the appearance of auroras that were visible even in Texas and Florida.
The possibility of a strong solar storm that may hit the Earth is quite small. Also, it might not bring the terrible consequences it is expected. However, scientists analyzed all the possible risks and aimed to be ready for any outcome.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons