Where were you on July 23rd, 2012? On that day, the sun burped (or farted) a massive belch of magnetized plazma right through our planet’s commute path. Wherever you were, you might still be there had the storm occurred a week earlier.
Here’s the technical low down from NASA’s Science News:
Near Miss: The Solar Superstorm of July 2012
July 23, 2014
Extreme solar storms pose a threat to all forms of high-technology. They begin with an explosion–a “solar flare”—in the magnetic canopy of a sunspot. X-rays and extreme UV radiation reach Earth at light speed, ionizing the upper layers of our atmosphere; side-effects of this “solar EMP” include radio blackouts and GPS navigation errors. Minutes to hours later, the energetic particles arrive. Moving only slightly slower than light itself, electrons and protons accelerated by the blast can electrify satellites and damage their electronics. Then come the CMEs, [coronal mass ejections] billion-ton clouds of magnetized plasma that take a day or more to cross the Sun-Earth divide. Analysts believe that a direct hit by an extreme CME such as the one that missed Earth in July 2012 could cause widespread power blackouts, disabling everything that plugs into a wall socket. Most people wouldn’t even be able to flush their toilet because urban water supplies largely rely on electric pumps.
When Bob told me this morning about the near miss two years ago I wanted to think it was a fluke. But actually an event like this is entirely in the realm of possibility. Later on in the NASA story they quoted a study in which the chance of an extreme CME hitting our beloved planet in the next ten years was calculated at 12%.
On July 23, 2012 Bob and I were in Kumasi and might be there still had the storm knocked out Earth’s electrical grid. “It’s not like they have millions of transformers in stock,” Bob pointed out. We stood on the back porch for a few moments, trying to imagine our life if the timing had been different. Wondering how we would have survived and how long it might take the world to recover from this level of destruction.
“Our civilization is a house of cards,” I said “Good thing we’re growing some of our food,” Bob replied. And we vowed to stay put, counting our lucky stars that we didn’t get stranded in Ghana.