There’s a very good chance that sometime in the not-so-distant future, a severe solar storm could unleash an electromagnetic pulse on Earth, knocking out satellites, grounding air travel, and disrupting power grids around the world, scientists warned at an American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting. The UK’s chief scientist likened the event to a “global Katrina,” predicting a $2 trillion economic fallout, according to the Guardian.
“The issue of space weather has got to be taken seriously,” he said. “The potential vulnerability of our systems has increased dramatically.” Solar activity runs on a roughly 11-year cycle, with its next flare-up expected in 2013. In the past these incidents have been little-noticed, but these days the world is intensely reliant on satellites. “I'm not talking about days or weeks, but several months without electric power,” said one Swedish official, calling for cross-Atlantic cooperation. (Click for another dire warning from AAAS.)