Solar Flares and Coronal Mass Ejections

One of the Doomsday scenarios that will happen at some point are Solar Flares and Cornonal Mass Ejections (CME) that will impact our electronics and the electrical grid.

With that as a background, I wondered what actions ordinary people could do to be proactive.

One warning I found available is from NOAA. You can signup for email alerts about solar activity. Here’s a response I received from them.

“The main space weather phenomenon that you are likely interested in is our geomagnetic alerts/watches/warnings. If you have not signed up for the Product Subscription Service yet, you can start here:

Once you have signed up, you can go in and add different products that will notify you of the potential geomagnetic activity (aurora).

First, go here:

Subscribe (add or change subscription preferences) Then go to the Geomagnetic Storm Products section. Here is where you will actually select the products you wish to receive. If you are in an above of about 40°N/S, you should probably subscribe to everything from K=4 to the G5 warnings and alerts. If you are farther south, it is less likely you will see any impacts with anything less than a G2 or more. There are always exceptions, so if you want to subscribe to everything, feel free.

You can also subscribe to our Radio alerts/watches/warnings as well. This will let you know if we have a good sized x-ray flare, which has the potential to send a coronal mass ejection towards earth and possibly creating aurora and have potential impacts on Earth (i.e. power grids/communications)”


Here’s a picture of the subscriptions for Geomagnetic Storms. I you look at a Geomagnetic Storm of Category G4 – it says “Grid system can collapse.” That’s about as bad as it gets.

I sent an email to NOAA to find out how much time there is between the Warning and the Solar Event…. Here’s their response –

“You are actually pretty close with your timing estimates.  Depending on the location of the flare/CME when it departs the sun, the speed of the CME, the background solar winds, and if there has been anything (coronal hole, CME, etc.) immediately preceding this particular CME that would “clear things out” so there was nothing slowing the plasma blob down.  The immediate hazard (within tens of minutes potentially) would be energized particles (protons).  They would mainly be hazardous to astronauts, satellites, and high flying aircraft.  Our ionosphere and atmosphere do a pretty good job of protecting us from these particles.  The next hazard would be the geomagnetic storming that occurs when the CME hits our ionosphere, bends the Earth’s magnetic field lines as it passes, and there is a re-connection of these field lines.  This is what causes the aurora and is what produces the fluctuations to the power grids that can be detrimental to the transformers.  This can occur anywhere from 15-18 hours to a few days.  Thankfully, most of the power companies have taken a serious interest in space weather and have subscribed to the same alerts you can subscribe to.  They are on a very short list of people we physically call to make sure they get the information we disseminate in a timely manner.   
In any case, hopefully I have answered you concerns in a not so short way.  I think you may find some of our educational information interesting, and possibly helpful, when deciding what to look for with space weather.  Check out the link below.  It has several interesting articles as well as explanations of some of the things we do.” (This site has some great educational materials – take a look.)
You can also look at the Space Weather Prediction Center to get a timely update.
I thought I’d also start a discussion of what anyone can do if they get such an alert and what actions to take in that short period of time before the storm hits.

Here are some thoughts on “Actions To Take.”

  • I’m going to assume you already have your regular Emergency Supplies and Food. – see my list.
  • Money – go to the bank and withdraw almost all your money. You can always put it back in, if things turn out OK. Obviously smaller bills are better. This is one reason to deal with a local bank. Just drive over and get your money. There may be a run on the banks – so be one of the first to get there. They won’t have enough money for everyone.
  • Water – start filling up every thing you have with water – bathtubs, pools, containers etc. Buy new containers like trash cans to fill up while the water is still flowing. Buy extra bleach for cleaning bad water.
  • Food – make a run to Costco or any store where you can buy large quantities of food. That 7 day supply of food in the basement is not going to last very long.
  • Gas – fill your car. Buy and fill as many gas cans as you can get your hand on.
  • Protection – you may need to protect your house and family – have adequate protection.

Question – what else needs to be on the list?

About Tom Terrific

Interested in MANY things.

Posted on August 7, 2013, in Emergency. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Get to know and trust your neighbors. When Doomsday comes, it’s better to pool your resources and work together.

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