Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather, Part VII: The Carrington Event By Stephanie Osborn

Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather, Part VII: The Carrington Event

By Stephanie Osborn

http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

“Interstellar Woman of Mystery”

Rocket Scientist and Novelist

 

In August of 1859, during historic Solar Cycle 10, something very strange began to happen. The Sun, as it neared solar max, grew unusually active. It produced prolific numbers of sunspots and flares, some of which were visible to the naked eye. This continued through the end of the month, until, just before noon on September 1, British astronomer Richard Carrington, just 33 and already acknowledged as one of England’s premier solar astronomers, observed an incredibly brilliant solar flare — a flare that was easily visible to the naked eye. In later times, this single flare became known as The Carrington Super-Flare. In his own words from his scientific records:

“…Within the area of the great north group [of sunspots]…two patches of intensely bright and white light broke out…My first impression was that by some chance a ray of light had penetrated a hole in the [projection] screen…for the brilliancy was fully equal to that of direct sun-light; but by at once interrupting the current observation, and causing the image to move by turning the R.A. [right ascension, an astronomical coordinate akin to longitude] handle, I saw I was an unprepared witness to a very different affair…The instant of the first outburst was not 15 seconds different from 11h 18m Greenwich mean time, and 11h 23m was taken for the time of disappearance [from the telescope’s view]. In this lapse of 5 minutes, the two patches of light traversed a space of about 35,000 miles…”

decomposing-snake

 

British amateur astronomer Richard Hodgeson also observed it; Balfour Steward at the Kew Observatory noted a “crochet” effect on the observatory’s magnetometer. (A “crochet” is also sometimes called a Sudden Ionospheric Disturbance, or SID. It is when a solar event produces an abnormally high plasma density — remember, plasma is like the stuff in your fluorescent lights — in one layer of the ionosphere. This in turn creates literal electric currents running through the ionosphere, which magnetometers pick up. It creates something of an invisible lacy pattern in the atmosphere, hence, I suppose, the term “crochet.”)

crotchet

 

And all of the previous flares and coronal mass ejections had fairly effectively cleared the interplanetary medium between the Sun and Earth.

The enormous coronal mass ejection produced by the super-flare slammed into Earth in only 17 hours.

The resulting effects lasted several days.

What kind of effects?

Worldwide aurorae for starters. These aurorae were most noted in the Caribbean, where they had never been seen before. Colorado gold miners, awakened by the brightening skies, got up and began cooking their breakfasts, because they thought it was dawn. In Europe and the northeastern United States, newspapers could be read by the light of the aurorae.

Speaking of newspapers…

On September 2, 1859, just past midnight, campers awoke to an “auroral light, so bright that one could easily read common print. Some of the party insisted that it was daylight and began the preparation of breakfast.”

~Rocky Mountain News

“A brilliant display of Northern lights was witnessed from 8 o’clock to half-past 9 last night. The glare in the northern sky, previous to defining itself into the well-known features of the Aurora Borealis was sufficiently vivid to call out some of the fire companies. “

~The Evening Star, Washington DC

“Aurora Borealis” – Early this morning, between twelve and one, a most brilliant display of the above phenomenon was observed extending from the western hemisphere to the north-west, north and north-east, and reaching to the zenith. The appearance in the west was that of a large fire, but in the north and north-east it was of a violet colour, and with great brilliancy. This beautiful display lasted for about an hour, and then gradually died away, leaving a serene and unclouded autumnal sky.

~The London Daily News

“The eastern sky appeared of a blood red color. It seemed brightest exactly in the east, as though the full moon, or rather the sun, were about to rise. It extended almost to the zenith. The whole island [Sullivan Island] was illuminated. The sea reflected the phenomenon, and no one could look at it without thinking of the passage in the Bible which says, ‘the sea was turned to blood.’ The shells on the beach, reflecting light, resembled coals of fire.”

~Charleston (SC) Mercury

reflecting-light

 

“Those who happened to be out late on Thursday night had an opportunity of witnessing another magnificent display of the auroral lights. The phenomenon was very similar to the display on Sunday night, though at times the light was, if possible, more brilliant, and the prismatic hues more varied and gorgeous. The light appeared to cover the whole firmament, apparently like a luminous cloud, through which the stars of the larger magnitude indistinctly shone. The light was greater than that of the moon at its full, but had an indescribable softness and delicacy that seemed to envelop everything upon which it rested. Between 12 and 1 o’clock, when the display was at its full brilliancy, the quiet streets of the city resting under this strange light, presented a beautiful as well as singular appearance.”

~ The Baltimore American and Commercial Advisor

 

Those dealing in the business of telegraphy did not think so highly of the display. The incredibly intense event, a maximal G5 and S5 by any definition, created induced currents in telegraph wires that were simply impossible to control. Lines and pylons threw sparks, telegraph batteries were blown, telegraphers received severe shocks, and telegraph “flimsy” paper burst into flames.

telegraph

 

And yet some telegraph systems continued to function, despite having no batteries to power them. The induced current was simply that strong.

“BOSTON: There was another display of the Aurora last night, so brilliant that at about one o’clock ordinary print could be read by the light. The effect continued through this forenoon, considerably affecting the working of the telegraph lines. The auroral currents from east to west were so regular that the operators on the Eastern lines were able to hold communication and transmit messages over the line between this city and Portland, the usual batteries being discontinued from the wire. The same effects were exhibited upon the Cape Cod and other lines.”

~The New York Times, 3 September 1859

Modern astronomers and solar scientists estimate the naked-eye flare which Richard Carrington observed to be around an X100.

This was the Carrington Event, often called a superflare, the most powerful solar/geomagnetic storm ever to occur in recorded history. It was before the advent of electricity, or electronics, or integrated grids and networks, save for telegraph systems, with which it wreaked havoc.

Imagine what effect it would have today.

According to History.com, “Ice core samples have determined that the Carrington Event was twice as big as any other solar storm in the last 500 years. What would be the impact of a similar storm today? According to a 2008 report from the National Academy of Sciences, it could cause “extensive social and economic disruptions” due to its impact on power grids, satellite communications and GPS systems. The potential price tag? Between $1 trillion and $2 trillion.”

Dibs on the story.

~Stephanie Osborn

http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

Comet Tales blog/Osborn Cosmic Weather Report: http://stephanie-osborn.blogspot.com/

The Weather Out There Is Frightful: https://www.amazon.com/Weather-Out-There-Frightful-ebook/dp/B008JA00D0/ref=sr_1_16?ie=UTF8&qid=1473999553&sr=8-16&keywords=stephanie+osborn#nav-subnav

Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival: https://www.amazon.com/Case-Displaced-Detective-Arrival/dp/1606191896/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1473999553&sr=8-3&keywords=stephanie+osborn

 

103 responses to “Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather, Part VII: The Carrington Event By Stephanie Osborn

  1. Reblogged this on The Arts Mechanical and commented:
    Don’t underestimate the sun. These events are rare, right now, though the sun is at a low point, where pressures will build up until something gives.

    • Actually, the statistics indicate that the superflares tend to occur when the Sun is moving into or out of an extended minimum period. The Carrington Event itself occurred as the Sun was emerging from the multiple-extended-minimum of the Little Ice Age.

      So the fact that our Sun is experiencing decreasing activity apparently leading toward an extended minimum is, unfortunately, no protection from another superflare/CME combo.

      • That was the point I was trying to make. If the activity is decreasing, the pressure from fusion is as well. On the other hand, gravity caused internal pressure will go up. The longer that goes on the larger the event when and more energy and particle when it does let go.

        • No no. This isn’t about fusion rates. You’re thinking about fusion flash, when a star goes from, e.g. Main Sequence to red giant or supergiant. This is about the magnetic fields generated by the circulating plasma, and how it interacts with itself and with the varying circulation.

      • Sorry if this is something you covered before, but I am wanting to practice some statistical modelling on a new software package. Is there someplace I could download historical data of solar cycles, luminosity, etc. To give me a nice complicated data set to play with?

  2. Thank you for posting this.

    Do you have any comments on the “solar storm headed towards Earth” link on Drudge right now?
    http://www.express.co.uk/news/science/715472/Solar-storm-Earth-break-Sky-TV-mobile-phones

    NOAA is just saying it will be a “moderate” geomagnetic storm. Should we all run out and look for Northern Lights, or unplug our sensitive devices and run stock up on toilet paper and canned goods?

    • *subscribes for further comments*

    • It will be pan-delerium… we could be killed or worse… expelled!

    • Okay, for starters, the UK “newspapers” tend to be closer to yellow press than anything, and they have not got a clue about coronal holes, which we talked about in an earlier installment. NOAA is correct. A coronal hole is never going to generate a superstorm. It requires a superflare producing a mammoth CME to generate a superstorm.

      And yes, we are indeed **currently** experiencing moderate geomagnetic storming. The K index is at about 6. A superstorm would produce a K index of 9 (maxxed out).

      These are some of the same newspapers that were reporting things like, “Tiangong-1 Could Explode Through Earth’s Atmosphere, Raining Molten Death” and such like drivel. They also reported last year about how the Sun was disintegrating because of the “gigantic coronal hole” that was supposedly drilling into its core. So take their science with about a twelve-ton grain of halite.

      • …That said, residents of New England, the Great Lakes states, the northern Midwest, the extreme northern Pacific Northwest, Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Iceland, Scotland, the Nordic countries, northern Russia/Siberia, northern China, the northern Kamchatka peninsula, Tasmania, the southern island of New Zealand, and of course Antarctica, should all be on the lookout for aurorae tonight and possibly tomorrow night.

        • If there are no clouds, which Illinois is covered with and expected to be covered with for the next 3-4 days…..

        • Of course, now that my parents are back from their aurora-spotting trip to Iceland (no auroras spotted).

          • Yeah, the Sun generally doesn’t cooperate that way. Sorry about that.

            • It isn’t just the sun that doesn’t cooperate. I’ve been to several astronomical events over the years, and it seems that more often than not, the clouds are out to see what I want to see as well.

              I am planning on going to Wyoming next year to see the solar eclipse. I sadly somewhat expect to go to see an old-fashioned Wyoming lightening storm instead…

          • We got the chance to see the northern lights in Alaska (in Denali) three years ago in the middle of August. Very neat. Mostly green and red.

  3. I do hope it does not come, but if I it does, how about election day!

  4. Thanks for this. I’ve been really enjoying this entire series!

    Do you have any book recommendations for the lay person who wants to read up more on the Carrington Event? I don’t have enough knowledge currently to judge the quality of information sources on my own.

    • I, also, am interested in such recommendations. (And clicking the box. Can’t forget that.)

    • The Sun Kings by Stuart Clark. Really well written history of early solar astronomy, with plenty of eccentric characters. He goes off the rails a bit with Carrington’s sad personal history at the end, but the majority of the book is quite good. And since it approaches things from the beginnings of the understanding of the sun, the science is approachable by the layman.

    • The obvious one is The Weather Out There is Frightful, by Stephanie herself. Link to Amazon at the end of the article, and it’s only $2.99 for the e-book. It does duplicate a good bit of what she’s put in these articles, but still worth a read on its own.

  5. Great article. I did not know about this.

  6. On “crochet”… In this case, probably taken from U.K. music terminology. The (American) quarter note is called a crochet, and in the older black notation, the note had a little flag (the crochet, or hook, from French) at the end. Now the “crochet” is tied to eighth and shorter notes, and the (quarter note) crochet doesn’t have a crochet in modern notation.

    • So you’re looking at that graph and seeing runs of musical notes a la Kuhlau sonatinas?

      • By the by, that graph image IS the ACTUAL magnetometer graph from the Carrington Event. It took a bit of doing, but I was able to find where the stuff had been digitized and uploaded to an online data base. I thought y’all would appreciate being able to see the real deal.

  7. Dang you woman! I received from The Spouse book VI in your The Displaced Detective series, Fear in the French Quarter as a present recently. I have spent the morning reading … and desiring grits. Nice hot slow cooked grits. Thick and served up with crumbles of mock bacon (sadly I can’t digest meat anymore) to resemble the pigs’n’blankets of my youth. But maple syrup? No! Daddy usually served them up with fried spiced apple rings on the side for the bit of sweetness.

    Anyway, once again thank you for providing this delightfully informative series of guest posts for our esteemed hostess.

    • I just finished it as well; fortunately without a desire for grits.
      The footnotes worked wonderfully; however, I really wasn’t having a difficult time reading them w/o translation. I don’t know if that should worry me or not.

      • I beta and copy edit for Steph, and we have an ongoing discussion about footnotes. From her tech background she always wants things to be perfectly clear while I lean more towards throw it out there and they’ll figure it out from context or go look it up later. So far she’s winning.

        • I watched the first Mad Max in the ‘original Australian.’ I enjoyed Gregory’s Girl without problem once I settled into the rhythm of the speech. I never found Bob Hoskins hard to follow in any of his work.

          Most part I did not need the footnotes, but I did find them helpful at times. I am a dyslexic and reading such is harder for me than hearing. There were a few word where it was very helpful, to have the footnote available for understanding the story.

        • The nice thing about how the footnotes work on the Kindle is the reader can decide which option to follow. Unfortunately, for us OCD types, the mere existence of a footnote requires reading.

          • Jack Vance was a master of footnotes. He generally wrote tight, to-the-point stories; the footnotes were Easter eggs of worldbuilding or backstory that didn’t advance the plot, but were interesting in their own right.

            He didn’t actually use *that* many footnotes – many of his stories had none at all – but they were so sharply wielded, they became a famous part of his style.

            • Footnotes? I read history. I am accustomed to them, often finding them very worthwhile. But for looking forward to footnotes? This required reading Sir Terry Pratchett.

        • Actually, it is as much my publisher as it is me. I first started using footnotes on A Case of Spontaneous Combustion. The original manuscripts did NOT have footnotes, but DID have a considerable amount of Arabic, Farsi, etc. (albeit transliterated to Roman letters). After some discussion with her, my publisher decided she wanted the translations in footnotes. I’ve been using that convention ever since, even with other publishers. I’ve had a couple complaints, but in the main people either don’t seem to care, or actually appreciate them.

          Where it’s getting funny is this new series I’m working on now. It’s an action/adventure SF/mystery/thriller series called Division One, and it’s something of a space opera/urban SF sorta thing. So there’s a buncha alien languages in it, and one of the characters speaks Yiddish, so the footnotes have all these alien translations in ’em PLUS the Yiddish…

          I’m having a heckuva lotta fun with.

          • Shush you! That series won’t be available until at least next year. It’s not nice to tease the troops, now is it.
            But it is really good, at least the first two, sort of like James Bond meets the X-Files with a bit of Outer Limits thrown in for seasoning.
            Come to think of it, there is this brain sucker that reminded me of a scene from Starship Troopers.

            • Well, I’ve been accused of writing like Heinlein before. I’ve also been favorably compared to Doc Smith. Plus I can mimic ACDoyle fairly decently when i so choose. None of ’em writing slouches. This series, I think, goes back more to my science fiction roots, whereas the Displaced Detective series hearkens of my mystery roots. I’m really enjoying writing the Division One series. When you realize that I started with some old stories I’d dabbled with that were no longer than about 30K words, and have turned out three novels and a piece just over the summer, and I’m still going strong in that universe, I think you can generally consider that I’m having a lotta fun with it. The beta readers have yet to complain, at any rate.

          • For this now I am looking forward.

    • LOL! The grits dish that Skye shows Sherlock in that book is a real thing. It is a Native American dish I learned while working as a reserve police officer on a small local NA reservation — the police chief showed it to me when we were on travel to Oklahoma for a festival. And it is delicious.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying both the book and the blog articles. I worked hard on both.

  8. A superflare or EMP would be annoying; I’d have to dig the old point distributor and coil out of the shop and put it into the Malibu. The stereo might be toast, but breaker points and a coil have been proven to ride out near nuclear blasts without trouble. The CD player would likely be toast, though.

    • Yes to all of that. Old-style electronics (vacuum tubes, etc.) are remarkably well-hardened against EMP. Modern IC etc. not so much.

      • I might need to build a Faraday cage in the attic of my house/garage……

        When I worked at Comanche Peak we kept getting lightning strikes on the containment building that would trip the reactor. The first thing we tried to mitigate it was a faraday cage inside the dome. Did not work. The static buildup still kept tripping the reactor control instrumentation.

        • If it was me, and I had a basement, I’d make the Faraday cage in the basement. Up in the attic, you got it sitting up there something like a lightning rod. I’d think you’d stand a better chance of creating an efficient cage in the basement.

          • Hmmmmmm…….

            We are considering remodeling the basement this winter. I’ll have to see how much this will cost me and whether or not I can convince the Mrs. it is worth it.

          • Lower-impedance short path to a really good grounding network is easier in a basement, yes. From what work I did on avionics-test screen rooms, I’m guessing adequately filtered penetrations for powering your equipment, to reduce conducted susceptibility, is gonna be your biggest headache.

        • I’m still staring at bare studs, underlayment, and rafters in the Big Remodel. A few times I’ve considered that turning the whole house into a Faraday cage would be fairly simple. Mostly dealing with doors and windows. But not being able to use a cellular phone indoors would be a hassle.

          We already had phones that mostly only worked outdoors, back when the only tower was juuuust barely in range, and we’d have to wander around the house, or even outdoors in the rain, tracking back and forth to find the “sweet spot” for the signal…

          • Sounds like our place. The cell tower is (looks at topo map) about 10 miles away, with some pine trees in the line of sight. Our siding is fiber-cement panels, and in the rain, we get a fair approximation of a Faraday cage. Not going to give up the landline. I figure we’ll get fiber optic some time before the turn of the century…

          • Some carriers and phones support WiFi calling. My Samsung Galaxy S5 supports this.

            This assumes you bring Internet access into the cage…

      • I understand that was a point made when the US captured a Soviet fighter jet. At first, the Air Force was ‘look at this primitive vacuum technology’, until someone pointed out it was actually EMP hardened technology.

      • Okay, I’m going to toss this out for discussion for the electronics folks here:

        A Carrington Event near miss some years ago had a projected GIC of 26 v/km at northern latitudes. That’s the value I’ve been using for quick calculations. 26 v/km = 0.026 v/m. That’s not very much for short runs of cable. I’m not about to tackle the small transformers that step down electricity from 120v to, oh, 6v. That’s conductor, too.

        So the questions are, how much is does it take to fly solid state electronics and is there enough conductor connected to it to do the job?

        Here power line GIC is surprisingly negligible. Mr. Doflinkum lives at the end of a 5 mile 7,200v tap – call it 8 km – that opened in a GIC event. He has 8 x 26 = 208 v from the power line, stepped down to 6.9 v with 3.45v per leg. If a recloser 50 miles upstream has opened, Mr. Doflinkum now has 2,080 v stepped down to 69 v, with 34.5 v per leg.

        His service transformer does have a coil of wire, but it’s in a steel can grounded at the pole. Will the windings pick up induced voltage under those conditions? Don’t know.

        So, could electronics ride through this? Oddly, it occurred to me today that electric motors might not fair too well unless someone thought to cut the power.

        • BTW, my telluic current experiment measured a difference in potential from 0.5 mv to 0.75 mv per m. That was with an analog voltmeter. My digital picked up phantom voltage, as digital multimeters tend to do. If I do the experiment again, thinking about farther separation to increase the difference in potential, with a resistor between probes to hopefully eliminates the phantom voltage.

          Wish I had left it in place. I would have had a baseline to compare with readings I could take during this solar storm.

  9. The potential price tag? Between $1 trillion and $2 trillion.

    I suspect this grossly underestimates the costs. It likely only looks at direct costs to repair damaged electronics, possibly including such indirect costs as lost income from shut down financial markets and wrecked vehicles due to sudden loss of engine computers. But what happens when smart phones go dumb, and when The Cloud precipitates all data? Anybody who has had to replace a bricked hard drive knows the personal cost of recovering programs, links, bookmarks and other such ephemera — multiply that by the whole population of Western Civilization and you’ve got some mighty testy people. Lose that app for online ordering your pizza and the collateral damage is likely higher than those estimates.

    I doubt it can factor in the opportunistic events, such as (to pick one example) a Palestinian uprising against an Israel temporarily bereft of its technological advantages. The potential for uncivil unrest worldwide s staggering and could (in the hands of a good even halfway decent writer provide an interesting apocalyptic thriller. Postulate some group or groups preparing for the breakdown of electronics (you could go all J Bond and have them working on a way to stimulate such an event) and you might have a big budget Hollywood payday.

    • Oh, without doubt. This is just the basic cost of repairing infrastructure — burned-out transformers, power lines, and the like. I’d say it’s the proverbial iceberg tip.

      • Stephanie:

        For GIC to damage the lines, it has to exceed conductor ampacity. The ampacity of 336 ACSR conductor is about 535 amps. If you go up to 556 ACSR, the ampacity is about 734 amps. Having never been a good judge of wire size looking up from the ground, I don’t know if transmission lines go to larger conductor.

        Now, I do know of an instance of transmission line conductor melting under load. It was the afternoon we thought we were going to do rolling blackouts, and transmission decided to bump up what the reclosers would open on. Can we all say “Bad idea?” And one of the conductors melted from the load. The thing is, that came about by essentially “holding down the safety valve.” Had they left the reclosers alone, the line never would have melted down.

        Since GIC is documented as opening line protection devices like reclosers, I have to ask how it’s going to exceed conductor ampacity. Each device that opens isolates that section of line (not always for working safely since anything built by man is subject to fail – line work requires special procedures). This limits the length of the conductor and, as a consequence, induced voltage.

        Now, you may have values where GIC exceeds conductor ampacity, If you have a link to them, it would be helpful.

        As to transformers, here’s a link to a PDF of a PowerPoint that you might find interesting:

        http://www.pes-psrc.org/Reports/GIC%20Presentation%20at%20PSRC%2005%2014%202014.pdf

        • Kevin, I hear what you’re saying.

          But everyone I’ve talked to in the upper levels of TVA (and a few other such organizations) seems to think this is definitely something to worry about. I look at mil specs for EMP hardening and realize that the Sun can do something similar, and our infrastructure overall is nowhere near close to fulfilling the mil specs. And it concerns me greatly.

          • …especially when you consider a few other matters, such as the fact that your ground cables are going to develop induced current too….

            • Yes, they will. The highest measured was 300A – 330A on a transformer neutral in Sweden. This gets into my thinking that it’s due to phase imbalance from GIC interacting with the AC sine wave. And since most distribution in the US is Wye, there will be ground loops on the neutrals.

              That said, that ground loop should be between every grounding point and not from one end of the line to the other. So if a line is 100 km long, and the neutral is grounded every 500 m, then I’m thinking the induced current in a 26v/km event is going to be 13v from ground to ground on the neutral and not be cumulative from one end to the other.

              Losing ground on a Wye or four-wire Delta is a Bad Thing. It can be a Bad Thing on three-wire corner grounded Delta, too. That’s because once it’s lost it’s reference to ground, the voltage can vary over a thousand volts in respect to ground. And yet I’m thinking of the other grounding points. So while it’s a Bad Thing, I don’t see it as a Catastrophic Thing. Know that when it comes to substation and fault currents so high that temporary grounded lines can whip enough from EMF to injure someone, a Catastrophic Thing in a substation is a pretty high bar. It raises a question I haven’t considered in the substation, which I’ll be checking on. I’ve seen substation transformer grounds many times, but other than the grounding grid, I haven’t given them much thought.

          • This is going to sound mean, but the question isn’t whether the upper levels of the TVA think it’s possible for GIC to damage conductors; the question is whether it will. That’s based on numbers. Since we know the ampacity of conductors, the question is then what level of currents will be induced in a solar storm.

            • You’ve seen an example on looking at the numbers right here. Before running some numbers, I thought a Carrington Event would induce enough voltage to trigger lightning arresters. After running the numbers, it’s pretty clear I was wrong on that point.

            • Maybe I didn’t make myself clear. I’ve been talking to the engineers in charge of some of the different stuff. They are concerned.

              • Maybe I didn’t make myself clear: I trust numbers over statements because people make statements and people screw up. Numbers allow you to double check.

                This should be straight forward. To damage conductor, it has to exceed its ampacity. Therefore, we need two things: the amps produced by Carrington Level GIC and the ampacity of conductors. Conductor ampacities are readily available from the manufacturing companies’ product catalogs. That’s where I got mine.GIC amps are the thing.

                Being a simple man, I like to simplify things around worse case, which is why I keep using 26 v/km even though that’s higher than the values in that quite good map you showed up last week. So it wouldn’t have to be a detailed analysis, just a max value. Given that, it’s a simple matter to see if induced current would exceed conductor ampacities.

                Yes, I know I’m a naysayer. Yes,l know I’m infuriating. Yes, I know I’m hardheaded. But I’ve seen too many panics where people didn’t stop to think. I’ve also seen complacency that came back looking for rumps to bite. Running the numbers and looking at how damage would happen can prevent both.

                Now I’ve got to head in. And today I’m going to look into something about substation transformer grounding, because I don’t trust my memory, namely I was usually dealing with things other than the grounds at the time.

      • “Too bad about your pacemaker and insulin pump, but who’d want to live without TV anyway?”

        • Yeah, pacemaker is probably toast; insulin pump — it depends. If it’s delivering a dose when it fries, then yeah, it might just deliver all of it since the valve might not close. Otherwise, you’re just looking at dropping back to regular needles….. as long as there’s any refrigeration to preserve the insulin.

          • The pacemaker itself? It’s encased in solid metal. My father asked to keep his old one as a souvenir when they replaced it. Problems arise when their sensors get messed up or enough current is induced on the wires. That’s why my father can no longer go around arc welders, and it’s not recommended that he stand for long by those shoplifting detector sensors.

    • a Palestinian uprising against an Israel temporarily bereft of its technological advantages

      As small as Israeli infrastructure is, I’d be surprised if they have not already hardened it enough to be able to ride out a Carrington event or an EMP….

      • The issue here is less whether Israel has hardened critical electronics systems than whether the Palestinians would think Israel had failed to do so, leaving themselves uniquely vulnerable, and launching an assault — likely with an initial probe consisting of massive missile launches. While I doubt the Israelis would do it (not being what their enemies claim they are) it would be a perfect opportunity to accept that initial blow i order to bait the Palestinians into a full-scale incursion sufficient to justify Israel engaging in a major counter-offensive to break their enemies.

        Especially if the rest of the world is too distracted by their own problems to effectively mount a protest on behalf of their genocidal pets.

        • Wouldn’t the guidance and ignition systems of the Palestinian missiles, mostly purchased from other entities, be vulnerable? I can imagine them trying, and wondering why nothing goes whoosh or bang.

          • The ignition systems of the Palestinian missiles might prove vulnerable, but I doubt that damage to guidance systems would have any notable effect. Targeting does not seem to be a major concern of theirs.

            • A large percentage are unguided artillery rockets: fixed fuel supply, non movable fins, etc. Think of an artillery shell that doesn’t need a gun tube. And they’d probably launch if they didn’t happen to be connected to the firing circuit at the time; if they were, they’d probably launch without operator intervention.

            • It will when it falls back on ’em. Though of course they’re already doing that and don’t seem to care; they simply claim it was an Israeli missile, regardless of markings on the debris.

    • *Cough Colplatschki cough* Book number 8 in the Colplatschki series describes the effects of a series of super-Carrington events on part of Colplat XI. Let’s just say that the government (corporate) bureaucracy is less than helpfully efficient and insightful when the fit hits the shan.

    • The more I think about it, the more I doubt GIC would brick smart phones. However, what would the relatively small induced voltages do in various sensors found in vehicles and with fly-by-wire systems?

      • No, the trick with cell phones and anything with GPS is gonna be what happens when the sats go down. If the comm sats are down, cell phones, land phones, etc. all become bricks.

        That said, GPS is really a mil system, and some of it at least should be hardened. But that doesn’t mean, in an emergency situation, that they wouldn’t encode the signal, rendering most civilian GPS systems useless.

        • There’s bricked and then there’s brick. Bricked as in fried and unable to function is one thing; unable to function because they can’t communicate with towers is another.

          This brings up something interesting: Cells signals are mostly line-of-site, and telephone companies use land-lines now. Would cell service even fail?

          As to GPS, if the satellites still function the signal would have to get through a hosed ionosphere. Don’t think there’s much chance of that happening. Once it quiets down, though, if the satellites are still functioning, the GPS should pick them up.

          • This is a guess, not an expert answer – but I believe telephony is using fiber for some (most?) of their long lines now, so metropolitan local area service and inter-metro service is probably not dependent on comm-sats. Rural service and overseas would likely be affected, capacity would be affected, and I’d expect what would look to the consumer like a crazy-quilt of availability.

  10. Just have to say – perfect timing, given the recent announcements. (I’ll be keeping an intermittent eye on how well the new terrestrial effects prediction model actually pans out.)

  11. “Dibs on the story.” — remember to stock up on paper and pencil, then – not gonna type this story up while it’s fresh unless you’ve got a mechanical typewriter squirreled away.

    • No, you miss my point. I’m not a reporter. I’m an author — I write science fiction novels.

      I actually was already in the process of brainstorming a book that Jerry Pournelle and I were going to co-author a year or two back, on this very thing. Then Jerry had his stroke, is having trouble typing, and I’m not sure if it’s gonna happen after all or not. If it doesn’t, he’s told me to go ahead and write it on my own, which I will. I’m just kinda waiting to see if he gets a bit better.

  12. BobtheRegisterredFool

    How much does seawater conduct, and to what extent could current be induced?

  13. How overbuilt would your Faraday cage need to be to allow delicate modern equipment to survive this kind of event?