Scientists Warn of 'Catastrophic' Solar Storm

1 in 8 chance of destructive megaflare by 2020
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser User
Posted Mar 1, 2012 2:33 AM CST
Updated Mar 1, 2012 4:38 AM CST
This NASA image shows the sun unleashing a medium-sized solar flare, and a spectacular coronal mass ejection last summer.   (AP Photo/NASA)
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(Newser) – Prepare yourself for yet another potential disaster. Scientists are warning that we face a one-in-eight chance of a massive "catastrophic" solar storm by the year 2020. A colossal "megaflare" from the surface of the sun could cause trillions of dollars in damage to electrical systems, and could take a decade to recover from. The prediction is based on mathematical probability equations linked to previous events.

The last massive sun eruption was the Carrington Event in 1859, reports Wired. An enormous flare emitted a vast particle stream that created auroras as it hit the Earth's atmosphere, setting telegraph stations on fire, blacking out their networks, and knocking changes in Earth’s magnetic field off the scale. A similar event in our high-tech era could cripple electric power, radio communication, and GPS satellites, disrupting transportation, communication, and banking systems. (Read more solar storm stories.)

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