7 July 2022

What Is A Solar Storm and How Dangerous Are They?

Unlike the storms we’re all used to, these disruptions to Earth’s atmosphere coming all the way from the sun might have you wondering what is a solar storm?

While there are some dangers associated with it, let’s first find out how solar storms affect Earth and the most common components that make up a solar storm.

What Is A Solar Storm?

The first and most important thing to understand is that solar storms don’t actually occur on Earth! They are disturbances on the Sun that ripple out and affect the entire solar system. These disruptions can cause both short-term and long-term effects to the Earth’s atmosphere and climate.

There are two events common to solar storms:

Solar Flare

A solar flare is a massive explosion that occurs on the sun. How massive? Well, they can have the equivalent power of a billion nuclear bombs! Sounds scary, but since the Sun is over 151 million km from Earth, we’re well out of the blast zone.

Coronal Mass Ejection

When a solar flare occurs, it is usually paired with a coronal mass ejection (or CMEs). CMEs are huge streams of charged plasma that lash out of the Sun’s atmosphere. They travel at millions of kilometres per hour and wreak havoc on Earth’s electrical infrastructure and systems, including:

  • Disrupting satellites which can knock out GPS and Internet
  • Damaging electronic devices such as cell phones and computers
  • Increasing corrosion and breakage of gas and fuel pipelines
  • Throwing compasses and other electromagnetic gadgets into disarray
  • Knocking out radio communications and early warning systems

What Can Be Done?

The bad news is that the Sun is 109 times larger than the earth, so we aren’t going to be able to control that behemoth anytime soon.

The good news is that solar storms actually occur all the time, most just aren’t that bad. While exact timing is impossible to predict, scientists who study them have discovered that they follow the 11-year solar cycle. Sometimes occurring several times a week, while dropping to one a week at certain times.

Even though we can’t stop them, there are some things you can do to protect yourself (and your business) from the dangers of solar storms:

Reduce Power Usage

Solar Flares can cause power outages, which puts a strain on other sections of the grid. If a brownout occurs (a drop in voltage in an electrical supply system), reducing your power consumption can help with getting the system back to full power, faster.

Have A Plan

In the event of a full blow blackout, knowing what to do and how to do it will make things easier and safer. This also includes making sure all emergency safety systems are working properly, and you have an emergency kit readily available.

Get A Generator

If you have critical equipment that needs to remain active at all times, investing in a generator is a must. In order to operate your generator safely:

  • Ensure adequate ventilation
  • Never plug directly into a power outlet
  • Always let the generator cool before refuelling
  • Never use a generator under wet conditions

For more information and safety tips for both brownouts and blackouts, check out our other blog.

If you have any questions or need help creating and implementing a plan for your business, reach out to us.

Across the globe and spanning countless industries, Emergency Management Group will make sure your organization performs best, when preparing for the worst.