Catastrophically large solar flare narrowly missed the Earth two weeks ago

In 1859 the Earth was struck by a massive solar storm called the Carrington Event.  Life was not affected much at that time, because so little used electricity.  Were such a storm to strike the Earth now, however, most if not all non-hardened or protected electronic devices would be fried.  The globe would be plunged into the 19th century again, with catastrophic results for most of the the world’s population.

I saw this story in the Washington Examiner:

Massive solar flare narrowly misses Earth, EMP disaster barely avoided

The earth barely missed taking a massive solar punch in the teeth two weeks ago, an “electromagnetic pulse” so big that it could have knocked out power, cars and iPhones throughout the United States.

Two EMP experts told Secrets that the EMP flashed through earth’s typical orbit around the sun about two weeks before the planet got there.

The world escaped an EMP catastrophe,” said Henry Cooper, who led strategic arms negotiations with the Soviet Union under President Reagan, and who now heads High Frontier, a group pushing for missile defense.

“There had been a near miss about two weeks ago, a Carrington-class coronal mass ejection crossed the orbit of the Earth and basically just missed us,” said Peter Vincent Pry, who served on the Congressional EMP Threat Commission from 2001-2008. He was referring to the 1859 EMP named after astronomer Richard Carrington that melted telegraph lines in Europe and North America.

“Basically this is a Russian roulette thing,” added Pry. “We narrowly escape from a Carrington-class disaster.”

Pry, Cooper, and former CIA Director James Woolsey have been recently demanding that Washington prepare the nation’s electric grid for an EMP, either from the sun or an enemy’s nuclear bomb. They want the 2,000-3,000 transformers in the grid protected with a high-tech metal box and spares ready to rebuild the system. Woolsey said knocking out just 20 would shut down electricity to parts of the nation “for a long time.”

But Washington is giving them the cold shoulder, especially the administration. [Would that be the Obama Administration?  Of course!  A Carrington Event would be best thing that could ever happen for them!] Woolsey told Secrets that some in Congress are interested in the issue, but the administration is just in the “beginnings” of paying attention.

Woolsey said that Air Force One and aircraft used by the Strategic Air Command to control nuclear-tipped missiles are hardened against an EMP.

The EMP effect is not rare. One occurred in Canada in 1989, knocking out Quebec’s electric transmission system. And North Korea is reportedly testing a device to attack the U.S. with an EMP attack.

The trio appeared at an event in Washington this week, but Pry said getting the nation’s leaders interested in the issue is difficult and educating the public about EMP hard too. “The education curve isn’t going up fast enough,” he said.

At the event, Cooper suggested that North Korea might already have the capability to launch an EMP against the United States. He said in December, North Korea tested its so-called Space Launch Vehicle which could deliver a stealthy nuclear attack on the United States by orbiting a nuclear weapon over the South Pole where the U.S. has no radar or missile interceptors facing south. North Korea, he said, apparently orbited a satellite over the south polar region on a trajectory and altitude consistent with making a surprise nuclear EMP attack against the United States.

Woolsey and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are the honorary co-chairs of a new EMP Coalition pushing for protections to the electric grid, national security, and civilian infrastructures.

Here are a few books you can try out, just to scare the stuffing out of you.

Lights Out by David Crawford

One Second After by William R. Forstchen

Dark Grid by David. C. Waldron

The following isn’t a CME/EMP scenario, but the effects are in many respects the same.

Patriots by James Wesley Rawles.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. APX says:

    Come Hell or High Water or Massive Train Derailment, or Tornados, or Massive Hail Storms, Or EMP???

    At this point this summer, I wouldn’t be surprised if something like this hit. I wonder if it’s covered under insurance…

    I don’t see how this would effect iPhones since they’re not attached to anything unless we’re talking about the network. At least I can still play Angry Birds.

  2. AnnikaMira says:

    SPACE WEATHER FACT CHECK: Many readers are asking about a report in the Washington Examiner, which states that a Carrington-class solar storm narrowly missed Earth two weeks ago. There was no Carrington-class solar storm two weeks ago. On the contrary, solar activity was low throughout the month of July. The report is erroneous. The possibility of such a storm is, however, worth thinking about: A modern Carrington event would cause significant damage to our high-tech society

    [Thanks for fact checking. However, the lack of a recent storm doesn’t change my point. One of these days, it’ll happen again.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  3. StJude says:

    I’ve read most of those books.. .. an EMP gives me nightmares.

  4. Dcduo says:

    Three days darkness

  5. inexcels says:

    APX: Sorry, but your iPhone would probably be history. EMP knocks out pretty much any form of electronics. They don’t have to be “connected” to anything. You might be able to save a device by shielding it properly — look up Faraday Cage — but without a power grid to recharge it once the battery runs out, I don’t really see the point.

  6. APX says:

    I don’t suppose there’s a blessing against solar flares in the Rituale Romanum and a collect for fair solar activity in the Missale Romanum per chance?

    [Alas, those who collected the blessings into that book did not foresee this problem. Perhaps I should write a text and submit it.]

  7. Charivari Rob says:

    Interesting booklist, Father. Have you ever read Nightfall – either Asimov’s original short story or the expanded novel he did later with Robert Silverberg?

  8. Martlet says:

    What will be, will be. I think there are enough scary things on earth without worrying about those coming from outside.

  9. AA Cunningham says:

    “Woolsey said that Air Force One and aircraft used by the Strategic Air Command(sic)”

    Woolsey and the author apparently are unaware that SAC was deactivated on 1 June 1992. It’s successor, Air Force Global Strike Command, was activated on 7 August 2009. Makes one wonder how Woolsey managed to get himself confirmed as director of the CIA if he still thinks that SAC; which ceased to exist over eight months before he took over at Langley in February of 1993, is still in existence today. Although there are most likely other reasons; apathy and indifference come to mind, perhaps that explains why Clinton never met with him one-on-one during his tenure.

  10. yatzer says:

    I do not need to read these books since the stuffing is already scared out of me.

  11. Geoffrey says:

    “I don’t suppose there’s a blessing against solar flares in the Rituale Romanum and a collect for fair solar activity in the Missale Romanum per chance?”

    Probably not, but perhaps in the new-ish “Book of Blessings”? Of course, it won’t really be a blessing… ;-)

    A television show by the name of Revolution airs on NBC, and it takes place about 10 years or so after a global black out.

  12. av8er says:

    I’ve read the Rawles book the Patriots. Very scary how quickly things can turn. Whatever scenario brings on TEOTWAWKI, my real concern is where will me and my family recieve the Eucharist?

    [Not to mention the Sacrament of Penance, Anointing…. This is one of the reasons why I have often thought (more and more of late, as a matter of fact) about more networking with local Catholics who are not adverse to or who are already “into” the prepping thing. They will need priests and we priests will need them!]

  13. wmeyer says:

    As seems to be so often an issue these days, the proposed steps to be taken to render our electrical systems proof against a Carrington class event (or at least more rapidly repairable) suffers from risks in the core assumption that we fully understand the event and how to minimize damage. For obvious reasons, the opportunity to test such proposals is rare. So hubris is a factor.

    That said, I do not propose that nothing be done. I lived in California years ago, when a systemic failure resulted in a widespread blackout, and replacement transformers were being trucked in from several states. A very real part of the problem is that purchasing and storing a very large number of transformers is a very costly proposition. Moreover, these potential replacements would also need shielding form the EMP event.

    The Church invented the study of economics, and we would do well to remember that in the pursuit of any “perfect” solution, costs rise exponentially as that perfection is approached. Oh, and lest we forget, the country is so deeply in debt that the only conceivable “solution” to that problem will involve a default.

  14. The Masked Chicken says:

    The Church may be the only organization on Earth that does not need electricity. It, certainly, has the longest track record of survival without it.

    Oh a loss of electricity will not return things to a 19-th Century state. There are ways around things that did not exist in the nineteenth-century. As long as you have garbage collectors, you are far ahead.

    The Chicken

  15. EXCHIEF says:

    Some will think this extreme but our family, in addition to the “usual” prepping stuff like food, water, ammo, back up power etc etc has also laid in a supply of those things a Priest would need to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We have a chapel on our property (in which visiting Priests have celebrated the TLM). It has vestments, hosts and wine which a Priest fleeing from TEOTWAWKI would have available for his use. The “underground” knows of the existence of our chapel as do a number of Priests. We are in a defensible, rural area, have a core group of properly trained defenders with the right mindset and good communications.

  16. av8er says:

    Indeed Fr. Z. My only hope right now is that I get walk out of a confessional when the stuff hits the fan and try like hell to stay in a state of grace (like I am now but with more motivation)!

    Looks like EXCHIEF, has it worked out. I’ll be moving soon so I’ll have to make new acquaintances. Maybe I can get an “in” with something similar to EXCHIEF’s outfit.

  17. ClavesCoelorum says:

    I should like to go back to the 19th century, things were good then! :)

  18. Schutz says:

    thanks for these recommendations, Father. I hadn’t heard of an EMP before, but this sounded interesting enough to have a look at your recommendations. I read all the samples available on Amazon, but wasn’t grabbed by any of them (the idea was interesting, but the writing was of a rather lower standard than I would normally bother reading). Still, I kept trying, and then found Ray Gorham’s “77 days in September”, which, while not great literature, actually had a plot line that kept one interested and involved with the characters: a husband and father is in Houston TX when the EMP hits and he sets out to walk all the way to his family in Montana (I understand that is a long way). One side benefit of the book is that it actually is quite positive toward Christianity, while not being “preachy”, and a central issue of the story is the moral dilemmas that are posed – including helping the helpless and remaining faithful in marriage. I recommend it.

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