Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Severe Solar Storms Could Harm Power Grid, Navigational Systems and Spacecraft, Scientists Say
By KI MAE HEUSSNER
April 21, 2009
More than a million people without power. The distribution of drinkable water disrupted. Transportation, communication and banking upset. Trillions of dollars in damage.
Solar storms could have devastating consequences on Earth, scientists warn.
(ABC News Photo Illustration)
Hurricanes, blizzards and other earthly tempests aren't the only natural forces with the potential to sow catastrophe.
Severe weather in the sun's outer atmosphere could knock out much of the country's power grid, incapacitate navigational systems and jeopardize spacecraft, scientists say.
While the odds of a solar disaster are relatively small, scientists warn that we need to ramp up our defenses against solar storms, especially given our increasing dependence on technology that is so susceptible to radiation from the sun.
"It's one of those events that is of low probability but high consequence," Dr. Roberta Balstad, a research scientist with Columbia University's Center for Research on Environmental Decisions. "The consequences could be extreme."