2012 Nearly Was An Apocalypse, According to NASA

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2012 Nearly Was An Apocalypse, According to NASA

solar flare

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 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

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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.

"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.

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

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

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

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.

TheAngryDM:
"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.

TheAngryDM:
"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.

Exterminas:
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.

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.

J Tyran:
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:
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.

Yeah, it's usually best in cases like this to say "ok, smart people told me this". My knowledge is far from adequate here, but as far as I've been taught, not all solar flares or coronal ejections are equal but most are shielded by the atmosphere. They can still disrupt infrastructure from time to time but not very much. These are especially common during a solar maximum (the period when the sun is at it's most active) and occasionally you can get a fucking huge flare or solar storm which we aren't adequately shielded from. As it's essentially a massive electromagnetic pulse it can do a lot of damage. Like the scenario described.

youji itami:

TheAngryDM:
"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.

Rhykker:

J Tyran:
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.

nathan-dts:

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?)

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).

Exterminas:
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!

Mortuorum:

nathan-dts:

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).

Thank you Desmond Miles. Gone, but not forgotten.

nathan-dts:

youji itami:

TheAngryDM:
"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.

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

So it's a total click bait article as the solar flare would do nothing after all the 2003 one happened and no one noticed that apocalypse.

martyrdrebel27:
So, the Mayans were pretty close to being correct then? That's cool. I was really banking on 12/21/12, and was disappointed.

No, the Mayans never predicted the end of the world. More to the point, their calendar would have ended well before 2012, but the people who spread this sort of thing don't seem too hung up on facts.

J Tyran:
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.

Yeah, I don't think they're thinking it through. They're thinking in terms of small scale power outages. I can deal with a week without power easily on a small scale--I've done it before. But if much of our production and distribution infrastructure was harmed? Yeah, I, and a lot of people would be fairly screwed. And as you say, a week is really optimistic. And even if it was a week, I bet there would be riots, panic, looting, suicide.

It's not just a break from internet or TV or whatever. It's a radical change in a lifestyle we've gradually developed over centuries.

CaitSeith:

Knowdlege that's stored in 21th century computers and mostly useless without 21th century technology. Oops!

Pretty sure we haven't gotten rid of books just yet.

youji itami:

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

So it's a total click bait article as the solar flare would do nothing after all the 2003 one happened and no one noticed that apocalypse.

No, the 2003 one was felt and it wasn't even aimed at us.

And that's kind of the point here: had the time frame been slightly different, we would have been in the path this time.

Don't make accusations when you don't understand the subject material.

Eh we are just on borrowed time until the sun burns out and destroys the world anyway.

Does it matter? The world is ending in 40 years since that's when we run out of oil.

According to random documentaries and news articles.

I sure hope they're wrong.

fuck you space!

i think some sort of backup plan should be in place in case this ever happens, 12% is way too high for an event that would have so much impact

i'm not so sure it would be that apocalyptic, at least in north america. in Quebec we were hit by a massive solar flare in 1989 ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/March_1989_geomagnetic_storm )our power grid went out 9 hour. i know that since them, we've implement fail saif to protect the grid from such event. are they powerfull enough to resist a major event ? maybe not completely, but i dont think that everything would blow up.

A powerful electromagnetic storm would probably kill a lot of electronics, but that's hardly enough to set us back 300 years. Even without electronics, we still have the knowledge and means to rebuild. Worst case scenario, even if all electronics die, which is completely impossible, we would have a global economic collapse. Nothing even close to an apocalypse.

Denamic:
A powerful electromagnetic storm would probably kill a lot of electronics, but that's hardly enough to set us back 300 years. Even without electronics, we still have the knowledge and means to rebuild. Worst case scenario, even if all electronics die, which is completely impossible, we would have a global economic collapse. Nothing even close to an apocalypse.

I believe you're forgetting human panic mode. If enough of the current infrastructure is disrupted, people would panic and cause more destruction and chaos. Cascade effect and the human penchant for being stupid in droves. Say there was a disruption in communications (TV news outlets, cellphones, loss of power in major cities), you forget or overlook that a majority of the human population who would be affected by this are so dependent on technology they hardly realize it. Once it is gone the people would riot, loot, etc. And those who're unable to survive on their own would die off which is a lot more than you might think. Failure in sewage treatment can lead to backups of sewer systems, failure in water treatment can lead to undrinkable water and without reliable communication can lead to many people drinking deadly bacteria. Hospitals would quickly be unable to handle the amount of people showing up with illnesses and injuries, aside from dealing with similar issues of water and power.
Enough disruption in the power infrastructure isn't a good thing, and like I said a majority of humans already dependent on tech are missing the skills needed to survive without it. Also if the flare were to destroy or disable enough satellites, that could disrupt communications enough to panic people.
We're really not far from total chaos.

Mortuorum:

nathan-dts:

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?)

How did you get those numbers? I'm really rusty on how odds and statistics work, and I've come to terms with how ignorant I am, which is why I'm asking this question. If it's to much to answer, just point me somewhere I can read it to learn.

As far as the story, that is quite interesting. If it had happened, even if it was slightly earlier than the projected time, I wonder what the people who believed the world was going to end would be saying. Some people are definitely underestimating the damage it would cause, but it could be said that it might've benefited humanity in the long run, at least possibly. I wonder how many people go through life not knowing how close the world was to having a meltdown. It's safe to assume the majority. All that I can say is that thank God it didn't happen.

Perhaps this will be the wake up call that makes all these people start developing backups and the like incase one these things actually hit us. Having a way to bounce back quickly seems like a good idea at least, but I guess it's too expensive or something since it isn't a thing already.

Denamic:
A powerful electromagnetic storm would probably kill a lot of electronics, but that's hardly enough to set us back 300 years. Even without electronics, we still have the knowledge and means to rebuild. Worst case scenario, even if all electronics die, which is completely impossible, we would have a global economic collapse. Nothing even close to an apocalypse.

Okay well the problem isn't that they could just kill electronics a big enough storm will actually destroy power grids, it would destroy all the converters, current regulators and transformers because of the currents it induces in them. That kind of equipment is actually fairly delicate and there is a lot of it, seriously a lot of it and if enough of it failed there can actually be dangerous and uncontrollable chain reactions that jump from facility to facility. If enough of it was damaged there are simply not enough spare parts to repair it (which takes a while at the best of times) and there are not enough factories in the world to build replacements fast enough, it would take years to repair it all. We are not talking about a few offline computers and cell phones here. Every part of the network that brings power from the power stations to homes and businesses could literally be destroyed and repairing it would be a monumental task, maybe an impossible one.

Then you have the effects of that, think of a big city like New York. It uses over 1,000,000,000,000 gallons of water a day, consequently it needs to dispose of 1,805,000,000,000 gallons of sewerage a day during dry weather.

The system is so complex and parts of it are so old that its boarding on failure at the best of times despite billions of USD invested into it because there are tens of thousands of miles of pipe and hundreds of pumps, overflows, catch basins and all the other engineering needed to operate it.

Where do you think the power that runs all comes from? Its true parts of the network have diesel and gas turbine backups as well as connected to the power grid but they are reliant on fuel, in a long term nationwide blackout getting the fuel to those plants would be problematic. Resources would be spread thin and the infrastructure that provides that fuel would be suffering and maybe knocked offline.

How do you provide water for millions of people? Bring it in on trucks in bottles or tankers? Good luck with that even at rationing levels, then keeping the trucks running would be difficult too as there are only so many trucks and the road network would be congested with refugees and where do you get the fuel for the trucks? Then what do you do with the waste? Trucks? I don't think so, so do you throw it in the river? Okay, the people during the 19th century learned the results of that the hard way and as people became desperate enough to drink river water you would have countless thousands of sick people.

I will not even go into food and civil disorder because I should have made my point by now.

Whist it is a concern for sure i don't see any evidence at all of this causing worldwide failure of electronic systems other than them saying " oo it will be bad"

Any critical device will have EMI shielding coming out of its ears and will be intrinsically safe ( if it fails it will fail safely and not cause a fire or whatnot), that's for electronics anyway. i don't know about high power electric distribution but this type of event has been known about for a long time and there will be protection in pace of some sort how effective it will be i would not hazard a guess but i would think more modern installations will be fine its the older outdated stuff we need to worry about.

Odd question. Would only the side of the earth facing the storm be electrically wiped? I mean if half the world is still working they could seriously help the other side get back on its feet.

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