It’s the stuff of science fiction usually associated with tales of rogue asteroids on a collision course with earth.
But over the next two years, as the sun reaches a peak in its 10-year activity cycle, scientists say there is a heightened risk that a whopping solar storm could knock out the power grids, satellites and communications on which we all rely.
“Governments are taking it very seriously,” says Mike Hapgood, aspace weather specialist at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK. “These things may be very rare but when they happen, the consequences can be catastrophic.”
Hapgood said that solar storms are increasingly being put on the national risk registers used for disaster planning, alongside other rare but devastating events like tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.
The statistics support this, he said. There is a roughly 12 percent chance of a major solar storm every decade, making them a one-in-a-hundred-year event. The last major one was over 150 years ago.
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Contributed by Chris Wickham of Reuters.