Natural Disaster

Solar Storms to Strike in 2012

Five years ago, we were unprepared for Hurricane Katrina. And now, according to Lawrence E. Joseph, author of Aftermath: A Guide to Preparing for and Surviving Apocalypse 2012, we are “similarly unready for another potential natural disaster: solar storms.” These large bursts of gas occur about once a century and emit powerful electromagnetic pulses that can knock out power grids. Massive solar storms hit in 1859 and 1921, but this occurred before the advent of the modern power grid–which runs on sensitive, high-voltage transformers. A storm of that magnitude now “would cost up to $2 trillion a year for several years,” Joseph writes in The New York Times. In order to prevent this environmental nightmare, the government must invest in grid-level surge suppressors–basically giant surge protectors–to protect the 5,000 vulnerable North American transformers. At $50,000 each, we could protect the entire electrical grid for an estimated $250 million. Joseph warns Congress to act fast, because “the next period of heavy solar activity will be in late 2012” and “having gone unprepared for one recent natural disaster, we would make a grave mistake not to get ready for the next.”