Huge solar flare detected – coming our way?
Probably not, but sooner, not later, we’re in for a collapse of our entire power grid that will last for months, and won’t that be fun?
How is the Department of Homeland Security addressing this threat? Well it’s stepped up its breast fondling and baby diaper finger dipping at airports but otherwise, eh, It’s doing nothing. To be fair, there’s probably nothing practical it can do, but I’m beginning to wonder whether I shouldn’t stock up on freeze-dried staples and yes, Zombie bullets. From the Washington Post:
The electric power grid is vulnerable
[T]here is no actionable plan in place to prevent the shutdown of much of the nationwide electric power grid. And while studies and emergency response exercises have examined/rehearsed possible response strategies, there is no operational plan to recover nationally from the immediate and longer term impacts of a significant solar storm on the electric power supply and most other technology-based systems we take for granted.
Directly or indirectly, a geomagnetic storm today (and foreseeable future) would likely include widespread and long-term disruptions on transportation and commerce, agriculture and food stocks, medical facilities, satellite-based communication and navigation systems, national security, etc.
While the threat is relatively small (perhaps 12% over the next decade) the potential impacts on life as we know it are clearly tremendous. Experts repeatedly make the point that the question is not if, but when (as, for example, major earthquake).
Are we ready even for these sorts of lesser than end-of-life-as-we know it disaster? Not likely
On the political side, it doesn’t take the proverbial rocket scientist to recognize that budget issues dominate across the board from cities, states, to the national government. No doubt billions of dollars would be required to set up and implement a national plan to prepare for a widespread and long-term disaster scenario. It would involve expanding and augmenting by a factor of probably at least several hundred the existing capabilities to deal with local disasters, such as those resulting from hurricane landfalls, floods, and tornadoes. In fact, even if expense were not an issue, there seemed to be no inkling of just how you could scale up dealing with a local disaster to a widespread, long-term, multifaceted national (and possibly international) disaster.
A major problem with protecting the national power grid is that it consists of 2100 high voltage transformers run by an assortment of 5000 or so independent entities. [Protecting those transformers] has lacked support owing to legal and business constraints by these 5000 entities in competition with one another. It probably goes without saying that politicians are not going to enter that fray. Nor would they be willing to budget the much greater expense of acquiring and storing backup high voltage transformers.