CME IMPACT, SEVERE GEOMAGNETIC STORM

A headline that makes my blood run cold, even as one can marvel at the sights in the heavens.

From SpaceWeather:

CME IMPACT, SEVERE GEOMAGNETIC STORM: Arriving earlier than expected, a CME [Coronal Mass Ejection] hit Earth’s magnetic field on March 17th at approximately 04:30 UT. At first, the impact sparked a relatively mild G1-class (Kp=5) geomagnetic storm confined to the poles. Since then, however, the storm has intensified to G4-class (Kp=8), ranking it as the strongest geomagnetic storm of the current solar cycle. Before sunrise, bright auroras were sighted over several northern tier US states. Rocky Raybell sends this picture from the Sherman pass in Washington:

“Once they broke through clouds, the auroras were so bright, it was like a moonlit night,” says Raybell. “I could see active skies in all directions.”

And here I am in a southern state.  Wouldn’t ya know.

Whenever I travel I have the thought, “Is this when the next civilization crushing Carrington Event will take place?”   If it does, I hope I’m on a flight when it hits.

As I write, I received a text message that the Planetary K index is 8.

In my opinion, as a nation we ought to be “hardening” everything, not only because of a future Carrington Event (which is inevitable) but also because of possible EMP attacks (which given our (intentional?) degraded global standing over the last few years seems ever more likely).  Also, as individuals and families and smaller communities we ought to have an eye on being prepared for all manner of catastrophic change in societal conditions.  It is a commonplace, but true, that most people are 3 days away from having nothing to eat or drink.

Nature is a cruel and unforgiving teacher.  While we rely on the grace of God and His divine providence, we nevertheless must do our own part, if not for our own sake immediately, then for those who rely on us.

Make a plan and network.  Your efforts will never be wasted.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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24 Responses to CME IMPACT, SEVERE GEOMAGNETIC STORM

  1. iamlucky13 says:

    Our infrastructure is a lot more resilient than most people realize. They also point to the Starfish Prime nuclear test, which overloaded a string of unusually vulnerable streetlights on one of the small islands of Hawaii, or the 1859 event that Mr. Carrington documented. Among the more dramatic effects of that event, telegraph lines that ran dozens of miles without grounds or isolation picked up substantial induced currents that created a few fires.

    The infrastructure isn’t bulletproof. There is good reason to believe a major solar storm could actually cause significant disruption. Civilization crushing? No.

    However, it’s always worthwhile to remind people to keep a supply of food and safe drinking water to help them weather any emergency that might arise. Besides, buying food in bulk is usually far less expensive.

  2. LarryW2LJ says:

    I am seeing reports that the Amateur Radio HF bands are pretty messed up today, which is not a surprise. BUT, it’s interesting that during storms like these sometimes you can get some pretty weird propagation. I’ll have to head out to my car during lunch break and turn on my rig to see what I can hear/work, if anything.

  3. Matt Robare says:

    One of the things from Mormonism worth reproducing is the emphasis on prepardeness. They have stores where you can buy a year’s worth of supplies in one go.

  4. Elizabeth D says:

    This Mormon tendency is of course in contrast to Christianity, where Our Lord’s teaching is to trust God’s Fatherly providence and share of our excess with the poor neighbor whom we love as ourself, rather than have extraordinary personal stockpiles of food/wealth. [Your key word is “extraordinary”. Otherwise, taking basic ordinary means to secure the well-being of self, loved ones, and – hopefully – neighbors is a duty.]

  5. Sonshine135 says:

    Cable has been a bit messy today. I haven’t seen any major cellular outages, but I will be on the lookout.

  6. Nicholas says:

    Apparently, GPS is not working.

    Also: GO TO CONFESSION!!!!

  7. Cantor says:

    I notice a green tint to the Aurora. Perhaps God is celebrating St. Patrick’s Day! [He wouldn’t do it that way.]

  8. L. says:

    Father, I’m assuming you inadvertently omitted the “NOT” in the sentence, [Is that what you assume?] “If it does, I hope I’m on a flight when it hits,” “it” being the Carrington Event. I’m guessing that an airplane with hydraulic controls might be somewhat controllable when the engines quit working so that the pilot could to some extent pick a place to crash, but that a fly-by-wire airplane would not be controllable at all.

  9. YoungLatinMassGuy says:

    With any luck, we’ll be squared away in our little neck of the woods by the time God presses the “Mighty Reset Button in the Sky” (And I wouldn’t blame him if he did to be honest…)

    An EMP, caused by detonating an average, or even below-average, nuke 200 miles or so above Kansas City (middle of the USA) would be bad for America. Read the book “One Second After”. People are suspecting that both North Korea and Iran are practicing that sort of launch…

    A big enough CME would be BAD, for pretty much everyone except the Inuit in the Arctic, the Stone Age tribes in the Amazon, and McMurdo Station in Antarctica.

    An EMP attack would make 9/11 look like child’s play. Imagine all the large planes over the USA coming crashing down because the electronics on board have been fried, and there being no physical connection between the control yoke in the cockpit and the control surfaces on the wings. 5000 airplanes, roughly 150-300 people on board on average, you can do the math for that one.

    Now, if the power grid is down for good, insulin in pharmacies across the country will soon start to go bad. People with diabetes will start to die off without help. The factories that make medicine won’t have power, and they’ll stop delivering medicines that some people need to survive. Grocery stores only have a limited amount of power in the generators (8-12 hours) after that point they’re out of commission. (The scariest sound I’ve ever heard was the sound of a big box retail store immediately after the power went out. It was surreal having all that electronic “stuff” suddenly turn off at the exact same moment, and being plunged into TOTAL darkness for a few moments due to there being no windows.)

    Within a few hours plane crashes will probably kill 100,000 or so people across the country.

    Within a few days you’d see panic set in and stores being looted, and violent gangs forming (It has happened before, it’ll happen again, human nature hasn’t changed.).

    Shortly after that, diseases from lack of sanitation and plumbing will begin to emerge, weakening people who haven’t had a decent meal in a few days.

    People on mood-controlling drugs, like Prozac and Zoloft will be going “cold-turkey” and now you’d have a bunch of people who 100 years ago would be locked up running around each with their own unique brand of “craziness”.

    Within a few weeks starvation and dehydration will start to set in and kill off the very old and the very young, and those who haven’t eaten much since the food ran out.

    Within less than a few months, those on insulin, and heart, kidney, or lung medicine will start to die off.

    Within a year, hopefully the survivors will have figured out how to grow their own food, and begin rebuilding what was lost.

    The pre-industrial carrying capacity of the Continental USA is at most 35 million people. All the fruit you see in the stores during December, January, and February comes from South America.

    Within 5 years of an EMP attack 80% of the electrical grid would still be offline. But that wouldn’t matter because 90% of the population would be dead by then.

  10. iamlucky13 says:

    “This Mormon tendency is of course in contrast to Christianity, where Our Lord’s teaching is to trust God’s Fatherly providence and share of our excess with the poor neighbor whom we love as ourself, rather than have extraordinary personal stockpiles of food/wealth.”

    In an emergency, you can’t share what you don’t have, so stockpile away and resolve to share it to help others and act as the hands of providence if a mess does hit the fan.

  11. LarryW2LJ says:

    The 15 and 12 Meter bands were busy during lunchtime. I had a two way QRP QSO with KC9RXI on 20 Meters (WI – NJ), and then I tried busting the pile up on 12 Meters for 7QAA (Malawi) but no joy there. The lower HF bands may be affected, but the higher bands seemed fine.

    The local NJ new outlets are saying that aurora may be visible tonight, this far south.

  12. The Cobbler says:

    “Imagine all the large planes over the USA coming crashing down because the electronics on board have been fried, and there being no physical connection between the control yoke in the cockpit and the control surfaces on the wings.”
    Used to be pilots would have none of that… The stories they’d tell of how you can land a mechanically-steered jumbo jet with the engine and instruments fried… Saner times…

    “People on mood-controlling drugs, like Prozac and Zoloft will be going “cold-turkey” and now you’d have a bunch of people who 100 years ago would be locked up running around each with their own unique brand of “craziness”.”
    I’m pretty sure needing to be locked up calls for stronger drugs than these. That and most people on them are most likely to be depressed and a danger to themselves rather than others if they go off them. And that’s after they get over the flu-like symptoms caused by non-graduated withdrawal — also a threat to the patient in a truly catastrophic disaster scenario.

    All that said… I’d be more worried about the sun and less worried about Iran or North Korea (or anyone else besides Canada or Mexico…). They’re on the other side of the world — the only two options they have are to smuggle a nuke across the globe (and last I heard the “suitcase nuke” that’s actually suitable for smuggling is still science fiction) or fly it over the Pacific (where we’d have plenty of time to spot it and shoot it down — we have systems and weapons designed for that sole purpose) or over Europe (where they’d flip out and shoot it down for us, then back us in invading the —- out of whichever awful little dictatorship tried that stunt). The real danger from North Korea’s or Iran’s nuclear ambitions is A) to their neighbors and B) what happens if any ensuing conflict escalates and Russia or China decides not to be reasonable at that particular moment in history. Of course, if scenario B were to go nuclear we wouldn’t be talking long-term national catastrophe, we’d be talking near-immediate end of most if not all life on the planet, at which point there wouldn’t be much of an aftermath to worry about.

    Although I have to admit I’m fond of the future history speculated upon in A Canticle for Leibowitz… mostly because it’s based on real history and takes a Catholic perspective on it.

  13. Akita says:

    Dear Matt Robare: I think you do Catholics a disservice to suggest they conduct their lives like Mormons. The whole two year food supply mania the Mormons propagate is repulsive. Have Catholics of bygone days ever felt they must stockpile provisions as they await apocalyptic happenings? This all smacks of Protestant survivalism. Sure, have several days supply of food and water and a few flashlights, but come on, to say we should become like the Mormons in this respect is just weird. Also, bulk food and survival kit foods are often repulsive and are not eaten and go wormy. This is wasteful. This whole mindset is so UNCATHOLIC. The Lord’s Prayer says “give us this day our daily bread”, not “give us a six month supply of provisions”. Do you realise your average Mormon does not know the Our Father? Never prayed it, never will.

    Yes, I’m having a spittle flecked nutty!

  14. Akita says:

    I’m with you Elizabeth D.

  15. Kathleen10 says:

    We are all so accustomed to having our daily bread that if, God forbid, the reality were that food, water, and other essentials were seriously not to be found, we would quickly realize how we should have given supplies a lot more thought, and the truth is we would be begging the Mormons to help us. I don’t fault the Mormons for it, not at all. It is one thing when lack of food or water is theory, I’m sure it is altogether different in reality. If there is nothing wrong with buying batteries or candles when a hurricane is coming, there is nothing wrong with some preps to be prepared in case any number of other scenarios unfold. In my opinion to do this does not mean we have failed to trust God. We have a much less stable world than we did fifty years ago. Our grandparents often had pantries and put up vegetables and food then, and had root cellars and supplies. This was not called lack of faith but wisdom.

  16. chris_R says:

    As an amateur radio operator (N3GBJ) I can say that this is one of the worst storms of Cycle 24 which is one of the weakest solar storms in the past 100 years (we are on the back end of the cycle’s peak.) Things are as if my antenna is on the ground. Many of us still use vacuum tube transmitters so we’ll still be on the air. Interestingly, Russia is a good source for tubes because they’ve had tubes in some of their military aircraft and other critical electronics, or so I was told.

    Thankfully, we did not have a repeat of the solar doozy from back in 1859 or so when it was light enough to look like daybreak morning in many parts of North America when it was really the middle of the night. Telegraph pole lines turned into huge antennas to suck up the flare and it caused poles to catch fire, telegraphy equipment to start working on its down, and anything electrical blowing up, sparking, catching fire. I think of the high tension power lines which could similarly act like antennas. We had a close call in 1989, if I recall, causing the power companies to get serious about ways to mitigate a solar disaster.

    One can find the beauty of God in auroras and the sheer power of the sun. Without the atmosphere of our planet and the solar activity we would not have long distance radio. The flip side is that His justice can be there as well, for the right CME in the right direction at the right time would take out all of our creature comforts that prompts the world to ignore or forget about Him or his Mother all too often I’m afraid, like all wireless communications (cell phones especially), Internet, Facebook, satellites, electronics in aircraft, automobiles, electricity, etc. How many would be totally lost?

  17. chris_R says:

    speaking of Amateur Radio — the unofficial Patron Saint for Amateur Radio is St. Maximillian Kolbe, who held call sign SP3RN (the RN stood for “Radio Niepokalanów) and regularly used radio for contacts in and out of Marytown. It was one way that the Nazis got tipped off to his operation, or so I was told. Fr. Josef Murgas in Wilkes Barre, PA, was a Roman Catholic priest who worked with early radio experiments and gave a big boost to Marconi.

  18. Maltese says:

    I have my Rock River Arms (the gun preferred by the FBI) AR-15 with an EOTech scope attached, from my days serving my Country, and a few days worth of provisions, but I don’t dwell on future calamities. It is selfish delusion to think one can survive, pro se, without the help of neighbors. [Precise one of the points I made, above. We have to network.]

    In the 1565 battle of Malta, the soldiers relied equally on being prepared physically and mentally, but equally on Our Lady’s help. One should not think they are an army of one, or without God. It’s best not to dwell on such things, as the Y2K fiasco has taught us. But, I little preparedness is good.

  19. The Cobbler says:

    Maybe instead of frying ducks in flight we should be coming up with a way to harvest solar wind and CMEs.

  20. thickmick says:

    Of note here is NOT the strength of this CME but the growing weakness of the Magnetosphere.

  21. JonPatrick says:

    Concerning the aircraft “falling out of the sky” it depends on the design of the aircraft and if they have any non-electrical backup systems. Older planes such as 737’s would probably be able to survive. Even newer ones would have a limited ability to control via trim tabs etc.

    I like the idea of setting up some kind of alternative communications medium e.g. amateur radio given that the Internet will be the first casualty of a major EMP event, plus the continued threat of government control. It might be more likely we are forced to an alternate mode for the latter reason.

  22. LarryW2LJ says:

    No aurora last night in the skies over Central New Jersey – darn.

  23. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Now, if the power grid is down for good, insulin in pharmacies across the country will soon start to go bad. People with diabetes will start to die off without help. The factories that make medicine won’t have power, and they’ll stop delivering medicines that some people need to survive. Grocery stores only have a limited amount of power in the generators (8-12 hours) after that point they’re out of commission. (The scariest sound I’ve ever heard was the sound of a big box retail store immediately after the power went out. It was surreal having all that electronic “stuff” suddenly turn off at the exact same moment, and being plunged into TOTAL darkness for a few moments due to there being no windows.)”

    This really is unnecessarily grim. To being with, insulin does not have to be produced by recombinant DNA synthesis. It was produced for years from fetal calf pancreas and with modern techniques and understanding a suitable supply could be produced fairly quickly (how do you think they did it before the 1970’s?). Secondly, you can power an ipad by a potato, so low voltage electronics not turned on when the EMP hits would be fine. Likewise, hand-cranked radios are plentiful. EMPs only fry semi-conductor circuits and then only if they are turned on. Older tube circuits are, relatively, impervious. Also, while the power grid would go down, because this is not the 1800’s and we know a thing or two they didn’t, if people don’t panic (big if) the grid would be restored fairly quickly, since transformers, etc., do not have to be fabricated from scratch (power companies keep back-ups). Only the wires and poles will have to be re-strung and re-planted, which can be done realtively quickly using good old human sweat. Obviously, power would be routed to larger facilities, first, but they can act as a safe haven until smaller units are reconnected. Sanitation would be somewhat of a problem, but, unlike the 1800’s, at least we know that we need to remove garbage and people can build outhouses.

    The reason war-torn areas revert is because the infrastructure is physically destroyed, something even a large EMP will not do. Obviously, if the EMP is caused by a nuclear device or solar plasma actually penetrating the atmosphere to the ground, all bets are off, but don’t over dramatize EMPs, by themselves,

    The Chicken

  24. williamjm says:

    Perhaps it will not be a CME, but something, sooner or later, is going to destroy the infrastructure. This latest solar flare is a reminder. When the inevitable happens, we are all going to wish we had listened to the Distributists. The self-sustaining farmers will survive, and probably save a lot of other lives of well.

    Before it is too late, then, we need to implement Distributism as much as we can. I believe it may be a life or death situation. Of course, as Hilaire Belloc noted, man will return to the land in the end. The question is, will he go willingly, or because the infrastructure has collapsed?

    So, I created a petition. It is addressed to the President and Congress, but they will probably never see it. The point is to bring attention to Distributism, for which there is a dire need.

    http://www.change.org/p/the-president-of-the-united-states-and-the-us-congress-recognition-and-support-of-distributist-economics

    Father, if I am doing something wrong by posting this link, I ask that the comment be deleted.