A ‘super solar storm’ could burn out power stations, cut water supplies, and leave satellites dead in the skies – and there is a one in ten chance of one hitting Earth in the next decade, scientists have said.
The only account of a ‘super storm’ striking Earth comes from more than 150 years ago – when a Victorian scientist, Richard Carrington, described an eruption known as ‘the Carrington event’.
In 1859, there were no telephones and satellites, but the power of the storm devastated communications – telegraph wires around the world burnt out, and some operators reported sheets of paper catching fire.
In a paper published to pre-print science site ArXiv, the researchers write, ‘if the Carrington event were to occur now, it would wreak significant damage to electrical power grids, global supply chains and satellite communications.
‘The cumulative worldwide economic losses could reach up to $10 trillion dollars, and a full recovery is expected to take several years.’
There’s a roughly 10% chance this sort of event could occur in the next decade, the researchers say – who call for a magnetic shield to protect Earth.
Such a shield would cost up to $100 billion to put into orbit – but that would be cheap next to the costs if it is not done, the researchers say.
The researchers write, ‘The total cost involved in lifting a 100,000 ton object into space would be around $100 billion, assuming that the payload coast per kg is $1000.
‘This value is comparable to the total cost of the International Space Station, and is 3-4 orders of magnitude lower than the current world GDP, or the economic damage from a flare ~100 years henceforth.’