Do you know what solar storms are and how destructive they can be? Please read on to learn about this.
What are Solar Storms?
Large clouds of electrically charged particles are sometimes thrown into space by the sun. This phenomenon is called solar storm. These electrically charged particles bombard the earth also. The solar cycle takes somewhat eleven years to complete. At present the solar cycle is believed to be at the minimum of its strength. And its strength is expected to reach a peak in the year 2013.
What Damage is caused by Solar Storms
Let us see what happened in March last when solar storm struck. Infra red radiation brightly illuminated the upper sky. The sun hurled huge clouds of electrically charged solar particles into space. These high speed charged particles swept past the earth. The upper atmosphere was heated up by the solar storm. It was caused by an explosion of energy. The energy released had an amazing magnitude of about twenty six billion kilo watt hours. To understand how big a magnitude this is, you should know that this much energy is sufficient to meet the energy requirements of big city like New York for two years.
This was the highest amount of heat released to the earth’s atmosphere since the release of heat from a solar storm in the year 2005. This time we were a little lucky as the effects were mainly the bright polar lights. But the effects of these charged solar particles interacting with the earth’s magnetic field and thus producing a geo-magnetic storm can have devastating results.
They are capable of overloading electric supply networks, resulting in their breakdown. Communication and navigation satellites may fail. Such a happening is sure to endanger astronauts in space and people traveling in aircrafts.
Necessity to Forecast Solar Storms
It is pity that we are not properly prepared to meet the dangers of solar storm. There is a need to assess the probability of severe space weather disruptions and their effects. Solar storms are nothing new. They have been there through the years. But now, we are very much dependent on technology and so the bad effects can be more pronounced at this age.
As early as in the year 1859, a devastating solar storm destroyed newly installed telegraph cables. This caused fires in telegraph stations. Today the effects of such a solar storm can be much more damaging. A solar storm like this can cut electric supply to many regions for several days in the present circumstances.
The past incidents underline the need to be well prepared to meet the hazards. Solar weather forecasting should improve. Warning well in advance needs to be provided. Space weather briefings shall be made possible for aviation purpose.