Are You Prepared For Emergency Survival Following A Solar Storm?

By: Will Tonkin

Our Sun is emerging from an unusually deep solar minimum. That is when the sunspot, solar storm, and solar flare activity are at their lowest levels in the sun’s eleven-year cycle. This is significant, because it means we are now entering one of the most active solar maximums in recent history. Solar Maximum is when the sun reaches its peak in its cycle for sunspot, solar storm, and solar flare activity. That means bad news for the survival of our society’s electronics, satellites, and power grids. 

Why does this Solar Maximum spell certain disaster for our way of life? In addition to the increased solar activity, expected during the upcoming solar maximum, the Earth’s magnetic field has two holes in it that allow particles streaming out from the sun to breach this shield. Because the solar particles are electrically charged, they are usually deflected by Earth’s magnetic field during a solar storm. Our magnetic field, however, is a leaky shield and the number of particles breaching it is about twenty times more than normal. The Earth’s thermosphere has also collapsed to an unusually low level. It always cools and contracts when solar activity is low, however, the magnitude of the collapse was two to three times greater than low solar activity could explain during the last solar minimum. John Emmet of the Navel Research Lab, states, “something is going on that we do not understand”. Normally the thermosphere, which ranges in altitude from about 54-360 miles, intercepts extreme ultraviolet photons (EUV) from the sun before they can reach the ground. As solar activity increases, solar EUV warms the thermosphere, causing it to expand, or puff up like a marshmallow over an open fire. This heating can raise temperatures to as high as 1400 Kā€”hence the name thermosphere. It has begun expanding again, but it has a huge deficit to recover from, allowing EUV much closer to the ground than usual. 

Since the beginning of the space age the overall length of high-voltage power lines spanning North America, has increased nearly ten times. This has effectively turned our power grids into a giant antenna for geomagnetically induced currents produced when we get hit by Coronal Mass Ejections (CME’s). In a report put out in 2009 by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation and the US Departments of Energy, in regards to our modern power systems they concluded there is a “significantly enhanced vulnerability and exposure to effects of a severe geomagnetic storm.” 

Think about all of the things in our daily lives we take for granted like Television, GPS, Internet, and Cell Phones. We are dependent upon electricity for our survival. A CME, or solar storm could knock out the national power grids, which provide electricity for all of our modern technology. The survival of our satellites, and communications could also be at risk. This in essence could turn our way of life back about 100 years, as the resulting blackouts could last for months or much longer! John Kappenman, CEO of Electromagnetic damage consulting company, points out that when our high voltage transformers blow, they can’t be fixed in the field. In many cases they can’t be fixed at all. The wait time right now to order and receive a new transformer is one to three years. So imagine how long it could take to replace most or all of the transformers in the nation if we get hit by a massive CME. To protect our high voltage transformers from the effects of a solar storm, huge resistors could be installed and attached to each one. It may be too late, however, to protect enough of our transforms to save our power grids.

Based on the preceding solar cycles, the current Solar Maximum should occur late 2012- early 2013. Mausumi Dikpati of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is forecasting the Solar Maximum to peak in 2012. Solar physicist David Hathaway of the National Space Science & Technology Center (NSSTC), however, believes it will arrive sooner. History shows that big sunspot cycles ‘ramp up’ faster than small ones. 

You may be asking questions like: “What steps is our government taking to prepare for a massive solar storm or CME?” “Is this threat real?” “How do I prepare my family for survival of an event like this?” We will answer these questions and more in part three of our four part series. So stay tuned.

What To Do In Case Of A Hurricane

By: Paddy S Anderson

If the area in which you live is ever struck by a hurricane follow this simple advice to ensure you and your family are able to ride out the storm in as safe and stress free a way as possible.

Before the storm- 
If your property is situated within the evacuation zone then you should follow your local authority's instructions and evacuate to your nearest hurricane shelter. If you can possess the means to do so you may wish to stay with family or in a motel in another state. Nevertheless, even if you are leaving your home you should still pay attention to the next piece of advice. You may be moving to somewhere safe but many of your important possessions will be staying put so you should get your affairs in order.

You should get important papers and documents (such as driving licenses, birth certificates, ID cards etc.) together and secure them in plastic. In the event that your home is damaged by the storm then these documents can be costly to replace and will be an inconvenience you can do without. It may also be a good idea to secure any sentimentally valuable photographs to avoid the risk of them being damaged or lost.

Set aside a small bag of clothes for each family member in an easily accessible place in the event you need to leave your home in a hurry. Remember to also include sleeping gear if you are planning on staying in an emergency shelter.

Along with clothing you may also wish to pack: 
-some extra cash - it is possible that the hurricane will have knocked out power lines and ATMs will not be -working 
-flash light 
-battery operated radio 
-bottled water 
-non-perishable foods 
-canned foods 
-can opener 
-if you have baby make sure to pack nappies, baby food etc. 
-you may also wish to pack a deck of cards or a board game to keep your family amused in the aftermath should the power have been knocked out.

One thing you are likely to need after the storm is water, for cleaning, washing and drinking. You can prepare for this beforehand by thoroughly cleaning out your bathtub, lining with plastic, and then filling with water to ensure you have a clean supply for yourself and your family.

In addition to this you need to make sure your home is protected. You need to board up all your windows as these can easily break during the storm and flying shards of glass can be very dangerous. You also need to secure anything in your garden that may blow away in hurricane force winds.

During the storm- 
The most important piece of advice for what to do during a hurricane is to STAY INDOORS at all times. If the eye of the storm passes over your property then there will be a short period of calm, do not be fooled by this. Make sure the hurricane has truly passed before venturing outdoors. There is no need for you to rush. In addition to this you should find a safe area of your home to ride out the storm. You want to be somewhere away from any glass windows or skylights. One side of your home should be taking the full brunt of the winds, once you determine which side this is you should move to the opposite side. You should also take care not to use any electrical appliances during this time, including your computer and phone.

If you follow this simple advice then you and your family should see through any hurricane safely.

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