Saturday, November 7, 2015

Space Weather

                “Weather is not limited to the clouds, wind, extremes of heat and cold and precipitation systems that we experience on Earth. The broiling surface of the sun generates its own weather, or space weather, frequently unleashing waves of plasma that bombard the Earth’s atmosphere.” So began a recent, syndicated Washington Post article.
                The White House is worried that an extreme solar storm could literally jeopardize the nation’s vitality and security. The worst documented solar storm to hit Earth, known as the Carrington Event, occurred in 1859, causing global telegraph lines to spark, actually setting fire to some telegraph offices according to NASA. Because of our expansive modern power grid and vast, vital telecommunications network, a similar event occurring today could produce a truly devastating economic impact exceeding $2 trillion, 20 times the cost of Hurricane Katrina, according to a study by the National Academy of Sciences. Worse yet, say the experts, this event could not be blamed on George W. Bush.
                It is precisely for this reason that these storms are so hard for scientists to come to grips with. These plasma eruptions, solar flares, or solar storms cannot even be blamed on mankind in general, completely stymieing expert’s attempts to explain them.

                The sun lies relatively dormant for long periods of time and then, seemingly out of nowhere, explodes into furious bursts of activity. What can account for these extremes, this galactic climate change, if not us?

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