TCTI: Too Crazy To Ignore
Dave Ross
northernllights_ap980.jpg
The northern lights are actually a signal of sever magnetic storms, but what happens when the storms get too close to the grid? (AP Photo/File)

Solar storms have and will knock out major tech in the US

We've all seen the Northern lights - we all know how beautiful they are, but they actually signal severe magnetic storms.

Lloyd's of London, the big insurance company, is out with a new report on what might happen to our various electronic control systems if there was a really big solar storm.

They estimate the worst case scenario would leave 20 to 40 million people without power, because a big magnetic storm could induce large currents in electrical lines that could overload transformers and make them explode.

At a presentation in 2011, Louis Lanzerotti on the New Jersey Institute of Technology described the possible effects."Ranging from radiowave interference disruptions which are the cause or the problems for airlines; electrical grid disruptions which are related to electrical currents and pipelines; and also telecommunication circuits under the ocean."

This isn't mere speculation. He said, during the Q&A, that it's already happened.

"For example, in 2006, there was a huge solar radio burst that occurred. Solar radio noise travels at the same speed as the sunlight," explained Lanzerotti. "This solar radio burst knocked out all GPS across the United States and knocked out the vertical landing capabilities for more than 10 minutes across the United States. There was no warning of that at all.

"We don't have to say the sky is falling. We just need to say, 'Hey, we don't understand that, let's do some more study.'"

Lloyd's of London is estimating the worldwide impact of a major solar event would be about $2.6 trillion.

The lesson I take from that is, back everything up, ask yourself from time to time 'what's Plan B' if the lights go out and the cell phones don't work, and always keep a few books and kerosene lamps handy so you can stay entertained while the repair crews are working.

Because your Xbox would likely be fried.

Dave Ross, KIRO Radio Morning News Anchor
Dave Ross hosts the Morning News on KIRO Radio weekdays from 5-9 a.m. Dave has won the national Edward R. Murrow Award for writing five times since he started at KIRO Radio in 1978.
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