Solar Storms


Emily Anger , Journalist

The sun is more dangerous than the average person would think. The sun can produce very powerful solar storms. The last massive solar storm (and largest ever recorded) was the Carrington event which occurred in September 1859. It damaged some of humanity’s prime technology and caused telegraph communications around the world to fail. If a solar storm the size of Carrington occurred today, we would be in a lot more trouble.
At this point, you might be wondering, what is a solar storm? Well, according to (n.d.), “Solar storms occur when the Sun emits huge bursts of energy in the form of solar flares and coronal mass ejections.” These solar flares take place due to the tangling of the sun’s magnetic field lines, causing an explosion of energy to occur. The energy produced during these flares is converted into particles. When these charged particles reach Earth, they have the potential to cause what we know as the aurora borealis. Solar flares can be beautiful, however they are also dangerous. The amount of radiation these particles contain can be deadly to living things. Thankfully, the Earth’s magnetic field protects us from all the charged particles and radiation. Some solar flares can also damage or disrupt satellites, but it doesn’t happen very often.
Solar storms are not uncommon; in fact, they occur every few weeks. Most solar storms are harmless and do not affect us very much. Although solar storms similar to the Carrington event would definitely have big impacts.
What would happen if a solar storm the size of the Carrington event occurred today? As previously mentioned, the biggest side effect would be the year-long power outages and damaged electronic systems that would take the United States an estimated $2.6 trillion. Yep, that means your phone wouldn’t work. According to, “It would completely destroy the power grid and satellite and communications systems.” Can you imagine our world without any of those things? The world would come to a standstill. Luckily, scientists are working on new technologies that will help us predict potential storms headed our way.
We currently have one computer model that gives us a 30-minute heads-up before the next large solar flare. However, scientists are working on figuring out how to extend those few minutes into hours or even days. The more time we have to prepare, the better. According to, “We want to give predictions with precise probabilities, similar to terrestrial weather forecasts.” If astronomers and scientists were provided with the proper information concerning solar storms, they would be able to determine the best solutions and avoid another Carrington event.
Solar storms are pretty harmless to us as of now; however, they have the power to put us as humans in a sticky situation. Scientists are working on new innovative technologies to help us predict and prepare for these situations. If a powerful solar flare were to strike Earth and we were unprepared, it is highly likely that we would lose some pretty valuable resources. The sun is very powerful.