Books and paper maps will be the only resources available if there is a solar storm of epic proportions caused by the ejection of the coronal mass of the Sun. If in 1859 an occurrence of this type destroyed the telegraph network in the United States and Europe, today it would annihilate the entire electronic infrastructure of the planet, such as satellites, internet, radio and other communication networks. For researchers at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Russia), it is necessary to prepare for such an event.
“Understanding the characteristics of extreme solar eruptions and extreme space weather events can help us better understand the dynamics and variability of the Sun as well as the physical mechanisms behind these events,” says Jenny Marcela Rodríguez Gómez, space geophysicist and lead author of the study published now in the Astrophysical Journal.
The data gathered during the research shows that the strongest and most intense geomagnetic storms are caused by rapid coronal mass ejections, called flare. They interact with each other in interplanetary space, intensifying the acceleration of particles, which would be weaker if it were an isolated plasma cloud.
In addition to the loss of trillions of dollars, rebuilding the electronic infrastructure can take a decade. “Our technological society needs to take this seriously, study extreme spatial weather events and understand the subtleties of the interactions between the Sun and the Earth,” says space climatologist Tatiana Podladchikova.
Every 11 years, the sun completes a cycle of activities. According to forecasts, this beginning cycle should not be marked by catastrophic events. “This does not mean that they cannot happen. Historically, extreme space weather events have happened in moderate cycles,” says astrophysicist Astrid Veronig, director of the Kanzelhöhe Observatory at the University of Graz, who is also co-author of the study.