From power outages to travel chaos - the huge impact a large sunspot can have

From power outages to travel chaos – the huge impact a large sunspot can have

The sun is the key to our survival but it can also wreak havoc on the technology we are all so heavily dependent on in modern times.

One of the biggest threats is solar flames, which are huge explosions in the sun’s atmosphere that blow up a lot of dangerous energy in our path.

Internet services are one of many things that can be disrupted


Internet services are one of many things that can be disruptedCredit: Alamy

Fortunately, the earth’s magnetic shield and atmosphere protect us from direct damage, but if a major hit, it can affect many of the things we use daily.

“They make a hydrogen bomb look like fireworks,” described Professor Huw Morgan of Aberystwyth University’s solar flames.

“When they explode, they are quite dangerous, they emit very hard radiation into space and of course even if we are quite far on Earth it can cause problems.”

For developed countries such as the UK and the US, the detection package is constantly improving so that we can prepare.

But no one really knows how bad it can be until it actually happens.

So what can the effect be?

Canceled flights

We could expect flight interruption if a big sunshine strikes.

First of all, GPS satellites can go down, making it impossible for pilots to fly safely – even if protection technology has improved.

“GPS satellites are very well shielded to ensure that they do not have major effects there and also have monitors to look for changes in the earth’s environment,” said Professor Andrew Coates of University College London.

But flights to high latitudes will need to be grounded, as it could expose everyone on board to harmful levels of radiation.

“So flights to California from the UK, for example, will be canceled due to the radiation hazard,” added Professor Morgan.

“The transports, the railways, they will have warnings in place.”

Fault in the mains

Quebec, Canada, was hit by a massive power outage in the late 1980s after a geomagnetic storm that left millions without electricity.

Something similar could happen today – although technology for space storm forecasts means that experts can hopefully kick-start measures to reduce the possible effects.

“The power grids will react, they do things in the electrical substations that help not to fry the systems,” said Professor Morgan.

Interruptions in communication

And it is not only the electricity supply that would be in danger, but also everything we use for communication.

That means making phone calls and the internet.

Recently research says that in extreme cases, Geomagnetically Induced Currents (GIC) can damage long-distance cables used for the Internet, especially submarine cables that connect continents.

“You would effectively lose Internet and cell phone communications, probably for a day or two,” Professor Coates said.

“People have appreciated how much money is lost, transactions, all that stuff, trade wheels, the internet, etc, it all depends on good communication and so if you suddenly lose it can be potentially devastating.”

And it’s not just everything on the ground we have to think about

Astronauts on International Space Station (ISS) is at great risk of being exposed to dangerous rays.

Thankfully, the station has a small safe space that they can all protect from it, which is why good systems for space weather detection are important.

But not everything is bad …

One of the nicer things we can expect is Northern Lights almost everywhere, with lots of bright aurora borealis on display.

I was a lobster eating millionaire at 6, now I'm 15, you will be stunned by my wealth
I'm a stylist and obsessed with Primark's designer duper - £ 1.50 light is a must

A representative of Met Office told The Sun: “Met Office is one of a handful of centers in the world that monitor the sun’s activity 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.

“Our forecasts give the government and industry valuable time to alleviate the worst effects of solar flares or coronal mass ejections.”

GPS systems would also fail


GPS systems would also failCredit: Alamy
  • Get all the latest science news
  • Stay up to date with the best space and astronomy stories
  • All the latest archeological news from dinosaurs to ancient artifacts

Find out more about science

Want to know more about the strange and wonderful world of science? From the moon to the human body, we have you covered …

We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online Tech & Science team? Email us at

#power #outages #travel #chaos #huge #impact #large #sunspot

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.