What If the Biggest Solar Storm on Record Happened Today?

Repeat of 1859 Carrington Event would devastate modern world, experts say

NASA/Wiki Commons image

Richard A. Lovett

On February 14 the sun erupted with the largest solar flare seen in four years—big enough to interfere with radio communications and GPS signals for airplanes on long-distance flights.

As solar storms go, the Valentine’s Day flare was actually modest. But the burst of activity is only the start of the upcoming solar maximum, due to peak in the next couple of years.

“The sun has an activity cycle, much like hurricane season,” Tom Bogdan, director of the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado, said earlier this month at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.

“It’s been hibernating for four or five years, not doing much of anything.” Now the sun is waking up, and even though the upcoming solar maximum may see a record low in the overall amount of activity, the individual events could be very powerful.


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