Solar Flares Disrupting Electronics

SolarFlareThe possibility of massive solar flares disrupting worldwide electronics has been in the news on and off for the last five or six years. Those extremely clever people who can forecast and measure solar flare activity have been telling us that they are expecting massive solar flares starting late in 2011 and peaking mid to late in 2012. Many of those in the “The World Will End in 2012” club have cited that the predicted solar flare activity in 2012 might be a contributor to “the end of the world”—along the lines of aircraft falling out of the sky, the Internet stopping, and nuclear bombs self-launching.

Well it seems this increased solar flare activity has started a bit early than it was supposed to. It is not mid-2011 yet but already a solar flare the size of Jupiter has erupted on the Sun. According to this article on (here) this flare is today disturbing radio communications in China. Just exactly what disturbing radio communications means I am not sure. It could just mean that the Chinese are getting some really bad static on their CB radios; assuming they have CB radio in China.

FlaresTelegraphAnother article on Routers (click image at right to go there) points out that the solar flare cycle is an eleven year cycle. We are just coming out of the quietest 11 year period. This item indicates that while this recent solar flare, known as the Valentine’s Day Flare (it happened on Valentine’s day but the effects take three days to reach earth), was relatively large it is likely to only be about a fifth of the size of solar flares expected during 2012.

For a solar flare to cause problems it has to hit us. Considering we only swing around the sun in a very narrow plane the chance of a large solar flare hitting us full on is relatively low, but still high enough to be of concern. The worry is that an X3 or higher solar flare—the Valentine’s Day Flare was X1 or X—will line us up and hit us full on. The general scientific view is, that should this happen, the impact on worldwide electronics is likely to be extremely disruptive however it should not be catastrophic. But then we don’t really know, never having been in an era before where we rely on so  much electronic equipment for our day-to-day life and wellbeing.

With worldwide food shortages predicted (causing the cost of food to skyrocket), potable water running out, increasing environmental impacts from global warming, the possibility of a second hit from the Global Financial Crisis, and now the chance of being hit by an “extremely disruptive” solar flare, 2012 is shaping up to be what might be described as an interesting year.

But then, in one way or another, every year is interesting.