According to Reuters report, there have been three large explosions from the sun in the past days, and that sun storms are set to hit the Earth. These incidents have pressed the U.S. government to warn “users of satellite, telecommunications and electric equipment to prepare for possible disruptions over the next few days."
Joseph Kunches, space weather scientist at the Space Weather Prediction Center, a division of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said that “the magnetic storm that is soon to develop probably will be in the moderate to strong level." Kunches added that the first of the three solar explosions passed the Earth last Thursday with little impact. Meanwhile, the second was passing the Earth now and "seems to be stronger." Lastly, he said that the third one “could exacerbate the disturbance in the Earth's magnetic field caused by the second (solar storm) or do nothing at all."
It has been known that if one of those solar storms hit the Earth, it could disturb communications, affect global positioning system (GPS) satellites and lead to power interruptions for several hours to even months.
Reuters have stated that major disruptions from solar activity are rare but have had serious impacts in the past.
The NOAA website has posted that the 1859 solar storm hit telegraph offices around the world and caused a giant aurora visible as far south as the Caribbean Islands. This was the worst solar storm ever recorded as some telegraph operators reported electric shocks. Also, papers caught fire and many telegraph systems continued to send and receive signals even after operators disconnected the battery supply.
Power Quality and Reliability
In 1989, a solar storm interrupted the power grid in Quebec, Canada. As a result, about six million people are left without power for several hours.
The National Research Council in a 2008 report said that a similar solar storm could cause a worldwide damage of up to $2 trillion. On the other hand, Kunches stated that this week's solar storms will not be anywhere near the one that happened in the past. Nonetheless, scientists are expecting stronger storms in the year 2013, as the sun is approaching what's known as solar maximum – the peak in its cycle of activity. Solar cycle is somewhere between 11 to 12 years.
Furthermore, the Space Weather Prediction Center has already alerted Power Grid Managers in order to prepare for such the solar events.
DiSavino, S. (2011). Power Companies Prepare as Solar Storms Set to Hit Earth. Reuters.
Sehgal, U. (2011). Latest Crisis: Solar Storms Are Set to Hit the Earth