Here Comes the Sun!
Of the few things we take for granted in the world aside from death and taxes, there is the sun. That bright shining orb in the sky is there in the day when we most need inspiration, and absent during the evening when we need some decent rest. Knowledge of its constant daytime presence − or the encouraging anticipation of its arrival after a long night – is a constant source of reassurance to us. Day or night, the sun is our friend…
But according to a growing number of scientists, the sun will soon be misbehaving in ways that may prove devastating to us.
And when they say “us,” they mean the earth’s entire population!
What Is The Solar Cycle?
Before discussing what this means, let’s have some background on the sun and what it does every few years.
While the sun’s brilliance seems constant and unchangeable, our great Sol is actually a seething furnace of continuously changing energy fields. The waves of energy it emits range from visible light that allow us see things clearly, to powerful radio transmissions, to ever more powerful electromagnetic waves and pulses that travel billions of miles out into space.
As it is with the Earth’s weather patterns, so it is with the Sun’s solar magnetic activity cycle, also known as the solar cycle. The first hard evidence of a solar cycle was uncovered in 1843 by Samuel Heinrich Schwabe. Following 17 years of continuous observations and measurements, Schwabe noticed a cyclic pattern in the average number of sunspots seen annually on the solar disk.
Another scientist, Rudolf Wolf, further compiled and studied Schwabe’s observations and those of others, and formulated the notion of recurring cycles dating back to 1745. By extension, this information on the sun’s activities was extrapolated to include the observations of sunspots recorded by Galileo and other luminaries of the seventeenth century.
The Sun Works in Cycles
Until recent years common thinking had it that there have been 28 cycles in the 309 years spanning from 1699 to 2008, thus yielding an average cycle of about 11 years. However, more recent research shows that the average length is perhaps only 10.66 years. During this time, there have been cycles as brief as 9 years and as long as 14 years.
In old-world lore the solar cycle has been credited with being the basis for the Western and Chinese zodiac cycles. Much like the Sun, both zodiacal systems run their course over 12 years – each beginning afresh for a another 12-year cycle. For this reason, many people familiar with the solar cycle believe the sun runs its course every 12 years. Whether long or short, the “peak” of any solar cycle is marked by a significant increase in sunspot activity.
For inhabitants of the earth, sunspots herald in a dark aspect of the sun’s otherwise bright nature.
How the Solar Cycle Affects the Earth
In the earlier years of human technology’s history, the sun and its spotty henchmen have been blamed for a devastating communication disruption that occurred in 1859. During this debacle, telegraph lines in both North America and Europe were utterly destroyed − shorted out by massive discharges of electromagnetic radiation spewing from the sun’s surface.
More than 100 years later the sun was fingered as the culprit of a 1989 power grid disruption that left an entire Canadian province – literally tens of thousands of people – without power for days on end.
This said, solar activity in the form of sun spots, solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) may wreak havoc on conceivably any electrically powered device including any electrical, electronic, or electromagnetically-affected system that has not been properly shielded from the sun’s radiation.
This includes the human body (more on this later).
What Does This Mean?
For us, disruption may come in the form of a shutdown of utility power grids such as the kind we saw in Canada – whether large or small − in conceivably any town or city of any size. See the accompanying image mapping the effects of possible power grid malfunctions.
Aside from possible power grid failure, there may be the partial or complete malfunctioning of:
aircraft navigation systems
landline telephone systems
cell phone systems
cable TV systems
wireless internet (Wi-Fi)
HDTV and satellite TV
conventional radio systems
The list goes on…
A new study from the National Academy of Sciences outlines a list of some grim possibilities for Earth on a worst-case scenario solar storm. While the 1859 event was perhaps the worst of its kind in the past 200 years, according to the new research, the unprotected designs hosted by today’s power grids and satellites put us at much more risk.
The National Academy of Sciences researchers conclude, “A contemporary repetition of the  event would cause significantly more extensive (and possibly catastrophic) social and economic disruptions.”
Modern-day power grids are vulnerable in that they are so interconnected with one another that a large space storm – the kind expected to occur about once a century – could easily cause a torrent of failures that could lay waste to nearly every United States electric utility system, thus depriving power to 130 million or more people in the US alone, the new report purports.
Real-World Proof? Sure…
Aside from the 1859 telecommunication disaster and the more recent 1989 power outage in Canada, we have a lesser-known happening from just a few days ago.
On August 3, 2010, a gigantic coronal mass ejection (CME) struck the earth with noticeable effect. While not as significant as the events already cited, acquaintances and friends known by this writer reported noticeable disruptions in internet and television communications on the evening of August 3.
Among the statements made by this writer’s sources:
“The [television] satellite service would run for maybe 15 seconds, and afterwards show a blank screen followed by a system message stating the service was ‘resetting’ itself.”
“The internet went out intermittently, and since the TV signal is fed by the same course, television reception was really bad. Lots of crackling, hissing, lines in the image. It was so bad that I had to shut the TV off for several days.”
Can the Sun’s Activity Affect Our Bodies?
A more esoteric source, Michael Salla, Ph.D., of the Honolulu Exopolitics Examiner, surmises in his online report that because our bodies are made of highly conductive water-electrolyte solutions accompanied by electrically-powered nervous systems, conceivably even our bodies will be noticeably affected.
Sala’s report hints at the Sun’s possible effects upon the human body by citing studies documenting the negative effects of living near electrical power lines. While such posturing hints at negative effects on the body, Sala makes certain to state that the Sun’s activity may also have positive effects − such as “bursts of insight” associated with stimulated brain wave activity.
How To Prepare for “The Peak” in 2012?
As of this writing there is disappointingly little to no public information available regarding government-led preparedness for the possible global havoc that sunstorms may wreak upon humanity. Likewise, as scientists begin to clamor more frequently for emergency preparation before the 2012 peak in solar activity, these same scientists offer little practical advice also.
It is mid-year 2010 at the time of this writing. Hopefully we will soon be seeing some concrete information on what to expect, how to prepare, setting aside what we will actually witness when the solar cycle peaks in year 2012.
National Academy of Sciences report: Severe Space Weather Events – Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts
“The Great Storm: Solar Tempest of 1859 Revealed”
“Prepare for the Worst, Because Solar Storms Are About to Get Ugly”
“Powerful Solar Storm Could Shut Down U.S. for Months”
“Solar Tsunami to Strike Earth”
Accounts from friends and acquaintances of the Author
Suggested Other Reading:
John Melendez’s Article Page
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