NoKo EMP: The calculations have changed

altitude_empFrom Breitbart:

Gaffney: On North Korea, ‘Strategic Patience’ Has Enabled Strategic Blackmail

When Barack Obama handed off to his successor the presidency of the United States, he impressed upon Donald Trump that his greatest worry was North Korea.

The intervening months have made clear why – with dictator Kim Jong-un’s incessant ballistic missile tests of ever-more-formidable weapons, his sixth underground explosion on Sunday apparently of a thermonuclear weapon and his escalating threats, which now include explicitly an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on America’s vulnerable electric grid.

Equally apparent is the fact this witches’ brew of trouble is befalling the United States on President Trump’s watch because the Obama administration basically did nothing to attenuate the danger. Instead, it dressed up inactivity and passivity in the face of the metastasizing danger as “strategic patience.”

Even before the North Koreans’ latest intercontinental missile launches, nuclear test, and threat of an EMP attack, Mr. Trump and his senior subordinates have properly signaled that the era of strategic patience is at an end. Unfortunately, in the absence of urgent course corrections on several fronts, the period now dawning is likely to be one of strategic blackmail.


An EMP attack: the nightmare scenario.

Try to contemplate what would happen were you to lose all electricity, and even most things that run on batteries would simply not work.  What would happen to your life? What would your world look like after a week of zero electricity?  A month?

If you haven’t read much about the impact that a large EMP might have, try…

One Second After by William R. Forstchen US HERE – UK HERE
This is a standard in the genre.  The author, who’s got game, has written two sequels.

Lights Out by David Crawford.  US HERE – UK HERE

And not exactly an EMP scenario, but in the same line:

Patriots by James Wesley Rawles. (It’s sequel HERE) UK HERE


There are quite a few now that explore the impact of an EMP.  One series, the Perseid Collapse, by Steven Konkoly, starts with a pandemic and then moves to an EMP scenario.

You get the drift.

Just for a start, in case you aren’t anxious enough already.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    What, I wonder, would Gaffney have wanted Obama to do? Bomb North Korea? I think the South Koreans would have had something to say about that.

    Truth be told, there are no good options with Korea.

    Obama was a terrible president, but let’s not blame all the world’s problems on him. If it comes to that, why was North Korea still a problem when Obama came into office? Because no previous president had solved the problem either.

  2. JustaSinner says:

    Drop a nuke/EMP on America, knock out the electricity for 9 months, 90% of America dead. This spells the end of Earth; US nukes EVERYONE else in world to spread the misery. Even if the President doesn’t order it, the SSBN Fleet Ballistic Missile Commanders will torch the Norks…which will cause the Chinese to respond, which will cause further nukes from US SSBNs, which will cause the Chinese to toss a few at Russia, which will cause the former-commies to toss a few our way, which will cause the REST of the SSBNs to unload worldwide….BOOOOMM eotwawki! (end of the world as we know it.)
    Keep thinking of the last line in the Glory Be, “world without end. Amen.”

  3. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    The civil unrest alone resulting from such an attack doesn’t bear thinking of. No lights at night anywhere – no streetlights, no flashlights, no emergency lights. I’ve been out in the middle of nowhere, where on a moonless night, it was so dark outside that it seemed that the trees, the cars, the buildings, the road, the ground you stood on, had all been swathed in heavy black velvet. Completely helpless without a flashlight. But with the pulse, not even a flashlight. A bad business indeed.

    Most of our towns, neighborhoods, and homes aren’t set up such that it’s possible to function without electricity for long.

    My best bet, I suppose, would be to try to make my way to Lancaster Co., Pa., and see whether the Amish were taking in refugees. They would have coal or wood fires that don’t have electric ignition that you can’t bypass, as many of our gas appliances have. So they could stay warm without gathering wood and building a campfire night after night. And they would have lanterns.

    But that would be an option for only a tiny handful. Not an answer.

  4. franciskoerber says:

    And now we come to the threshold of the warnings from heaven, especially through Our Lady’s approved apparitions. Consecrate Russia. This is not the time of peace that Our Lady promised us if we did what she (at Fatima) had requested. It will be interesting to see what happens by Oct 13, 2017. We have been shouting and it has landed on deaf ears.

  5. yatzer says:

    I don’t know what to do about it except pray for my grandchildren.

  6. KateD says:

    Showed this to the kids.

    9 year old: “Just get Korea to overshoot to hit Iran and Iran to overshoot and hit Korea. It’s a two fer. Problem solved!”

    16 year old: “But then all of Iran’s technology would be lost and they’d be pushed back clear into operating like they did……yesterday”

  7. Michael_Haz says:

    While it may seem wrong to blame Obama, (I think he has earned much blame), it’s also wrong to ignore the role played by Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter in seeing to it the North Korea received

    Per the NY Post:

    “Enter self-appointed peacemaker Carter: The ex-prez scurried off to Pyongyang and negotiated a sellout deal that gave North Korea two new reactors and $5 billion in aid in return for a promise to quit seeking nukes.”

    “Clinton embraced this appeasement as achieving “an end to the threat of nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula” — with compliance verified by international inspectors. Carter wound up winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his dubious efforts.”

    “But in 2002, the North Koreans ’fessed up: They’d begun violating the accord on Day One. Four years later, Pyongyang detonated its first nuke.”

    The prep for this possibility should include GO TO CONFESSION.

  8. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Why don’t we pre-e.ptively EMP blast North Korea? They don’t run electricity at night anyway. We could neutralize their nuclear control electronics and no harm the populace all that much since they are already loving in the 1860s.

  9. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Wow. Excuse the mispells. Even after I correct them my phone seems to autocorrect some of them back to the wrong word if I’m not careful.

  10. Kerry says:

    Not to be picky pokey critical, but Mr. Gilbert, are there options of which you are unaware? Of those of which you are aware, availing us nothing, how many are on that list? (These questions are more of an exercise in logic than a search for answers; it is a genetic defect in my thoughts. Whenever I have heard someone say, “Thus and such is the worst…whatever”, I ask, “What is third worst, and what eleventh worst”?)
    However, as the seriousness of an actual EMP attack on this country is nothing to name call about, I agree with you that finger pointing at this late date also avails nothing. One suspects that pressure brought to bear on the Chinese, of what kind I know not, may be salutory. Pax Christi.

  11. Grant M says:

    Somber news report. In the worst case scenario various nations will be annihilated.

  12. franciskoerber says:

    refresher on the warning from Akita

    “As I told you, if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never have seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful.

    “The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead. The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by My Son. Each day, recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and the priests.

    “The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against other bishops.3 The priests who venerate Me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres (other priests). Churches and altars will be sacked. The Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.

    “The demon will rage especially against souls consecrated to God. The thought of the loss of so many souls is the cause of My sadness. If sins increase in number and gravity, there will be no longer pardon for them.”

  13. Pingback: TVESDAY SÆCVLARIA EDITION | Big Pulpit

  14. Suudy says:

    The grid is not as vulnerable as frequently advertised. Equipment manufacturers already design equipment to withstand events that far exceed the energy an EMP would generate. Indeed, EMP like events occur every single day in the grid during power system faults. Ask the manufacturers yourself.

    Schweitzer Engineering has an entire page devoted to EMP:

    And the CEO and founder of Schweitzer Engineering wrote a letter to the WSJ about it:

    The article from Breitbart provides no support for the claim that there is a “vulnerable electric grid.” There is a link to a WSJ article, but even that is short of facts and is full of conjecture. Notably, it assumes that because electronics misbehaved in 1962 and 1989 that we are in the same boat 30+ years later. Equipment is hardened. Lightning strikes induce EMP events orders of magnitude larger than what North Korea can inflict.

    I work in the utility industry, and I agree with Schweitzer. The grid is a whole lot tougher than claimed.

  15. un-ionized says:

    Suudy, I hope you are right. We don’t have to worry about two weeks, two months, two years after such an event. If a community’s drinking water is dependent on electrical pumps, everyone dies in three or four days. I will share my last bottle of water with my priest in the confessional.

  16. Semper Gumby says:

    Yatzer: Good point, prayer is the place to start. May I suggest sending some care packages to the grandkids/parents.

    In a post-EMP no-electricity situation there will be many casualties from: drinking unclean water, poor hygiene, infection, disease, malnutrition, and starvation.

    For improving hygiene: Fels-Naptha soap (most grocers carry it), laundry powder, toothpaste/brushes and dental floss, large antibacterial wipes for improvised bathing.

    Water purifying: plain household beach (no additives) eight drops to a gallon, water filters, WaPI (a wax gauge) to pasteurize water to 149 degrees (saves fuel compared to boiling).

    Cuts and scrapes: alcohol wipes (there’s a lot of handy stuff in the first aid and cold section of local grocers), antibacterial ointment, Band-Aids, large gauze pads, Ichtammol Drawing Salve (abcesses), Tea Tree Oil (skin ailments), Clove Oil (tooth and other uses).

    Diet: multivitamins, extra Vitamin C and Calcium, metal trash can (keeps the little critters out) containing bags of rice, beans, soy flour (high in protein).

    No doubt you know this better than me, but the grandkids would appreciate board games, baseball stuff (yep, I’m biased with that suggestion), frisbees, and books (Bible, Catechism, MR, hymnals, Tolkien etc., and homeschooling textbooks from a Catholic publisher). A few items for your local priest.

    (Just to lighten the mood a bit, maybe stock a sign for the front yard “Monks Welcome,” and a few Monastic Diurnals and the Rule of St. Benedict for those wandering monks looking for a good place to rebuild civilization.)

    Odds and ends: Your grandkids’ parents could fill a box or two with glue, strong tape, boot and shoe laces, nails, laundry line and clothes pins, extra underwear and socks, and Paracord.

    As Marion Ancilla Mariae noted in her comment above, civil unrest could make things a bit rough at times. Perhaps the adults should consider bear spray, pepper gel, and for nighttime use a tactical strobe flashlight.

    One could always add to this list (books on home medicine, farming, gardening, medicinal and edible plants; a Faraday cage (anti-EMP) with radio; an axe and safety glasses, etc.).

    Hope this helps. And to return to prayer, may I suggest topping off each care package with a couple of rosaries.

  17. Jim Dorchak says:

    Wow it sure is nice to not be living in the center of a bulls eye. I am so happy we left the former USA.

  18. Semper Gumby says:

    Suudy: Your opinion that the “grid is a whole lot tougher than claimed” is reasonable, however…

    First, the Breitbart article that you quickly dismissed actually has links to, among other things, the Congressional EMP Threat Commission. The Breitbart article’s author, Frank Gaffney, Assistant Secretary of Defense under Reagan, is no slouch in these matters.

    You promoted instead a WSJ Letter to the Editor. We’re straying into strawman territory with that Letter. No one here said the electrical grid could not withstand an EMP “disturbance.” The issue here is North Korea, an EMP attack, its effectiveness, and its consequences.

    Far more informative than that WSJ Letter to the Editor is a Jan. 9, 2016, article in National Review by James Woolsey and Peter Vincent Pry. “Will Infrastructure Sabotage Be The Next Pearl Harbor?” Here is a key paragraph, please keep in mind this is from 2016:

    “North Korea’s fourth low-yield nuclear test and its claim that it has a hydrogen bomb are further corroboration of the Congressional EMP Commission’s warning that the North is developing a super-EMP weapon — essentially a low-yield hydrogen bomb.”

    The National Review article discusses Super EMP and cyber attacks against the grid. (Physical sabotage of HVTs such as the “Metcalf sniper attack” will take us too far afield here).

    James Woolsey, also no slouch in these matters, has been quoted in several places as saying that the design for a Super EMP leaked to North Korea years ago.

    You raise a good point about utility companies managing lightning strikes. And I want to pause here and thank the fine folks at our utility companies for their dedication.

    There is, however, a unique problem with an EMP attack- whether or not that attack is Super or enhanced with a cyber attack and physical sabotage.

    An EMP attack involves three waves, E1, E2, and E3. The FutureScience website goes into detail. Basically, E1 lasts nanoseconds (this fast-rise pulse might be stopped by special surge protectors), E2 lasts up to a second (E2 might resemble lightning), and E3 can last up to several minutes by “heaving the Earth’s magnetic field.” E3 might also resemble a Coronal Mass Ejection (see Carrington Event). Overall, it appears that both EMP and Super EMP differ from a lightning strike. In other words, it appears that resistance to lightning is not resistance to EMP or Super EMP.

    My two cents: the power grid is definitely vulnerable.

  19. AnnTherese says:

    Every recent president has dealt with this, Republicans and Democrats. Only one president has proven to be crazy enough to light the match under Kim Jong-un.

    Yes, we are in great peril. But humanity has brought us to this moment, not God. God is with us, nonetheless. We need not fear… pray, fast, “act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with God. (Mic 6.8)”

  20. SKAY says:

    Michael_Haz said:

    “While it may seem wrong to blame Obama, (I think he has earned much blame), it’s also wrong to ignore the role played by Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter in seeing to it the North Korea received”

    I agree. I remember thinking at the time that trusting the Communist government of NK to follow
    the “rules” was a very bad idea. Of course Clinton assured us they would be carefully monitored
    etc. They were probably laughing at Carter/Clinton behind their backs as they agreed to the deal. I think the same is true of the Obama/Kerry deal with Iran. Since North Korea and Iran are allies I would think Iran learned a few things about dealing with the Chamberlain” Peace for our time” Democrat administrations. It was all about buying time for North Korea obviously and it worked.
    They got everything they wanted and needed.
    If you do not remember history you are doomed to repeat it.

  21. jflare says:

    FWIW, if a nuclear detonation occurred at high altitude, it would disrupt electricity for a time, we don’t know for sure how long. For all that this would be ghastly inconvenient, I don’t know if it would be automatically deadly. We should all be prepared for natural disasters anyway. Many of us have candles, camp stoves, solar ovens, water purification gear, and lanterns.
    I see the greatest threat being directed toward the elderly and infirm for whom electrically operated machines must help them keep on. Perhaps someone should look into how such means might be adapted to operate without electricity.
    An EMP attack certainly would create communications and refrigeration problems. Such CAN be dealt with if we have prepared ourselves decently and avoid panic.
    …*sighs* Being prepared with a rifle, pistol, ammunition for both, a saber, and training to use them well would also be helpful.

  22. Suudy says:


    You mention the letter, but apparently missed the link to technical papers from the same company. The letter was from the CEO and founder of a utility equipment manufacturer who know the grid very well. He’s no slouch either.

    But back to the technical points. The paper specifically addresses E1, E2, and E3 waves. And it indicates none are concerns to intelligent electronic devices (IEDs)–aka relays–the very equipment claimed to be the most vulnerable. Of the waves E3 is only an issue due to currents induced in long conductors, not to the equipment itself.

    I haven’t read any commission reports. But if the very manufacturers posting technical papers that show hardening against these events, the threat is elsewhere. I personally think communication networks are far more at risk than the grid. That should be the focus.

    Let me read through the commission overviews and I can provide more detailed rebuttal.

  23. Semper Gumby says:

    Suudy: I stand by my comment.

  24. Suudy says:


    Fine. But the paper specifically details handling of E1, E2, and E3 waves and how IEDs are hardened against those effects. So I stand by my comments.

  25. Semper Gumby says:

    AnnTherese: It is unclear what you mean when you write “every previous President has dealt with this.” Just in the last several years the NoKo regime has launched missiles, detonated nuclear devices, made numerous belligerent threats (specific cities, EMP attack, etc.), and produced a video showing a nuclear attack on Washington DC. This list could be longer. This situation does not appear to have been “dealt with.”

    It is unclear who and what you are referring to when you write that “only one president has been crazy enough to light the match.” Take a closer look at the actions and words of the NoKo regime. The NoKo regime is the problem. Pax.

  26. Semper Gumby says:

    KateD: Two books you or your teenager may be interested in are:

    A Time to Betray by Reza Khalili.

    Mantle of the Prophet by Roy Mottahedeh. The 1-star comments on Amazon are best ignored. This book is a slower read and more focused on Iranian society than A Time to Betray, but worth the effort. Given their ages, your kids may be only interested in the early chapters, which are about an Iranian boy’s experience, and difficulties, with Iranian culture, schools, friendships, bazaars, mosques, etc.

    If your teenager is interested in computers, there are numerous interesting articles on the web about “Stuxnet.”

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