2012 Nearly Was An Apocalypse, According to NASA

Rhykker

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2012 Nearly Was An Apocalypse, According to NASA



Had the massive 2012 solar flare event not been a "near miss," the Earth would have been knocked back to the 18th century.

A powerful solar storm nearly hit the Earth two years ago; had the event happened only one week earlier, it would not have missed, says Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado.

"If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces," Baker said. "In my view the July 2012 storm was in all respects at least as strong as the 1859 Carrington event," says Baker. "The only difference is, it missed."

The Carrignton event to which Baker refers was the most powerful solar storm in recorded history. In the wake of the event, intense geomagnetic storms lit up the sky with auroras borealis as far south as Cuba, telegraph lines sparked with electricity, and some telegraph offices even caught fire. With telegraph systems disabled, the "Victorian Internet" was effectively taken offline by the Carrignton event.

Today, a similar storm could have an economic impact in excess of $2 trillion, according to a study by the National Academy of Sciences. To put that in perspective, that's 20 times greater than the costs of Hurricane Katrina. Large transformers damaged by the event could take years to repair.

Physicist Pete Riley analyzed historical records of solar storms, extrapolated frequency data, and calculated the odds that a Carrington-class storm would hit Earth in the next decade. His results? 12 percent.

"Initially, I was quite surprised that the odds were so high, but the statistics appear to be correct," says Riley. "It is a sobering figure."

Earlier this year, a massive solar flare that missed Earth [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/132500-Massive-Solar-Flare-Will-Deliver-Glancing-Blow-to-Earth-on-Feb-26] could have caused planet-wide radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms, had it hit us.

Do you think we'll be hit by a catastrophic solar flare in our lifetime?

Source: NASA Science News [http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2014/23jul_superstorm/]

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The_Darkness

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So... Planet sized Faraday Cage anyone? If you can budget it for less than $2 trillion, then you can probably count on getting yourself a job.

Anyway:

Dear Sol,
Please don't blow up the internet. I like it.
Thanks,
Me.
 

TheAngryDM

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"Do you think we'll be hit by a catastrophic solar flare in our lifetime?"

I expect to live another 4 decades. If the chance of being hit by a catastrophic solar flare in one decade is 12%, that means the odds are 48% I'll see one in my lifetime. That's a really easy question. You should have been able to figure it out yourself.
 

martyrdrebel27

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So, the Mayans were pretty close to being correct then? That's cool. I was really banking on 12/21/12, and was disappointed.
 

synobal

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Please don't confused "radiation storms" with radiation you'd get from like a nuclear reactor.
 

TheAngryDM

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See Stev, this is precisely why this is a question that should be asked of physicists instead of internet forum posters.
 

Exterminas

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Yeah. We'd be knocked back into the 17th century, alright. With all the knowledge of the 21th century. One might say that's a slight advantage.
 

nathan-dts

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TheAngryDM said:
"Do you think we'll be hit by a catastrophic solar flare in our lifetime?"

I expect to live another 4 decades. If the chance of being hit by a catastrophic solar flare in one decade is 12%, that means the odds are 48% I'll see one in my lifetime. That's a really easy question. You should have been able to figure it out yourself.
Not how odds work.
Roughly 60% chance that we won't have any in the next forty years.
32.7% chance of having one in the next forty years.
6.7% chance of two happening,
0.6% of three happening
0.02% of four.

That's all assuming that the guy was right with a static 12% chance every decade and it indicates that we should have one roughly every thirty years which a quick Wikipedia check seems to agree with.

My question would be as to where the scientist is getting his prediction that it would be incredibly devastating to infrastructure as most of the ones on the Wikipedia page were not particularly damaging and safe mode was enough to make sure no data was lost. Then again, I'm not a professional so I'm inclined to believe he has his reasons.
 

youji itami

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TheAngryDM said:
"Do you think we'll be hit by a catastrophic solar flare in our lifetime?"

I expect to live another 4 decades. If the chance of being hit by a catastrophic solar flare in one decade is 12%, that means the odds are 48% I'll see one in my lifetime. That's a really easy question. You should have been able to figure it out yourself.
It's been a 155 years since the last time we were hit by a solar flare. The big ones don't happen that often and one missed only 2 years ago I would by $1000 on no solar flare hit this century, easy money.
 

Raziel

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Exterminas said:
Yeah. We'd be knocked back into the 17th century, alright. With all the knowledge of the 21th century. One might say that's a slight advantage.
Actually not really. We'd be back in the 17th century without the knowledge or tools of the 17th century but with a population size of the 21st century. BIG disadvantage. Way WAY too many people and most of them totally unable to survive without running water, electricity, gas, and food available at the grocery store. If utilities could not be restored to most area very quickly MASSIVE sections of the population would die. And thats not counting the destruction that would be caused by the looting and rioting. Even people like farmers wouldn't do well. Modern farmers use tractors and vehicles, they buy seed and pesticides, they require running water. So most of them would starve just like the people in the cities.

Another article I read previously stated that if the large sections of the US powergrid went down for more than 2 weeks they could not be repaired for YEARS if ever. The lack of power for sustained periods causes too many other systems to fail.
 

J Tyran

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I like the Facebook comments "how would losing electricity be an apocalypse?" Unless power was restored within a week developed nations would be on the brink of economic collapse, cities would be almost uninhabitable, food and water distribution would slow to a trickle and mass transit and the road networks wouldn't function.

The likelihood of restoring it within a week is remote too, there are only a limited amount of facilities and resources to effect repairs. Even with every single electrical engineer making repairs and every single factory around the world making parts it could take years to get everything working again, triage measures for only critical infrastructure would take many weeks.

Many people don't seem to understand just how dependant we are on energy and how fragile the systems that provide it are.
 

Rhykker

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Feb 28, 2010
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J Tyran said:
I like the Facebook comments "how would losing electricity be an apocalypse?" Unless power was restored within a week developed nations would be on the brink of economic collapse, cities would be almost uninhabitable, food and water distribution would slow to a trickle and mass transit and the road networks wouldn't function.

The likelihood of restoring it within a week is remote too, there are only a limited amount of facilities and resources to effect repairs. Even with every single electrical engineer making repairs and every single factory around the world making parts it could take years to get everything working again, triage measures for only critical infrastructure would take many weeks.

Many people don't seem to understand just how dependant we are on energy and how fragile the systems that provide it are.
Thank you for being a reminder of why the forums are where the intelligent discourse takes place.
 

nathan-dts

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youji itami said:
TheAngryDM said:
"Do you think we'll be hit by a catastrophic solar flare in our lifetime?"

I expect to live another 4 decades. If the chance of being hit by a catastrophic solar flare in one decade is 12%, that means the odds are 48% I'll see one in my lifetime. That's a really easy question. You should have been able to figure it out yourself.
It's been a 155 years since the last time we were hit by a solar flare. The big ones don't happen that often and one missed only 2 years ago I would by $1000 on no solar flare hit this century, easy money.
You'd lose $1000 given that they happen roughly every thirty years. Last time was 2003.
 

J Tyran

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Rhykker said:
J Tyran said:
I like the Facebook comments "how would losing electricity be an apocalypse?" Unless power was restored within a week developed nations would be on the brink of economic collapse, cities would be almost uninhabitable, food and water distribution would slow to a trickle and mass transit and the road networks wouldn't function.

The likelihood of restoring it within a week is remote too, there are only a limited amount of facilities and resources to effect repairs. Even with every single electrical engineer making repairs and every single factory around the world making parts it could take years to get everything working again, triage measures for only critical infrastructure would take many weeks.

Many people don't seem to understand just how dependant we are on energy and how fragile the systems that provide it are.
Thank you for being a reminder of why the forums are where the intelligent discourse takes place.
I wouldn't exactly class my comment as "intelligent", just basic common sense. Developed nations and the huge cities that where built went through a century or more of growing pains as the farming and industrial revolutions found solutions to the demands of an exploding population, it shocks me that some people don't understand how dependant we are on having our food transported, fresh water provided and sewerage and rubbish taken away.

Even the rural communities that are moderately self sufficient with food and water would soon be overrun with the countless millions of refugees fleeing the cities.
 

Mortuorum

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nathan-dts said:
Not how odds work.
Roughly 60% chance that we won't have any in the next forty years.
32.7% chance of having one in the next forty years.
6.7% chance of two happening,
0.6% of three happening
0.02% of four.

That's all assuming that the guy was right with a static 12% chance every decade and it indicates that we should have one roughly every thirty years which a quick Wikipedia check seems to agree with.
Thanks for running those numbers. Carrying forward, the chance of it happening in the next 50 years is 47% and the next 60 years is 53%.

Funny thing is, if the 12% figure is correct and constant, the chances of it having happened within the last 60 years are also 53% and the chances of it having happened within the last century are 72%... but it hasn't happened.

So, have solar pattern changed recently or have we just been lucky? (Or is the 12% figure for a Carrington-class event overblown?)
 

CaitSeith

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It's funny. That's the plot of a new survival Indie game that's gonna be in early access this year (surviving in the north region of Canada, after a solar flare crashed your plane and made all your modern devices useless).
 

CaitSeith

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Exterminas said:
Yeah. We'd be knocked back into the 17th century, alright. With all the knowledge of the 21th century. One might say that's a slight advantage.
Knowdlege that's stored in 21th century computers and mostly useless without 21th century technology. Oops!
 

CaitSeith

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Mortuorum said:
nathan-dts said:
Not how odds work.
Roughly 60% chance that we won't have any in the next forty years.
32.7% chance of having one in the next forty years.
6.7% chance of two happening,
0.6% of three happening
0.02% of four.

That's all assuming that the guy was right with a static 12% chance every decade and it indicates that we should have one roughly every thirty years which a quick Wikipedia check seems to agree with.
Thanks for running those numbers. Carrying forward, the chance of it happening in the next 50 years is 47% and the next 60 years is 53%.

Funny thing is, if the 12% figure is correct and constant, the chances of it having happened within the last 60 years are also 53% and the chances of it having happened within the last century are 72%... but it hasn't happened.

So, have solar pattern changed recently or have we just been lucky? (Or is the 12% figure for a Carrington-class event overblown?)
You'll have to ask the scientists for that. Sometimes this kind of things have incremental probability through time (I'm sure I misnamed this one). It's like when someone is dealing cards, it's more probable you'll get high numbered cards if the dealer has gave only low numbered ones (and the deck hasn't been reshuffled).