News, Space

Solar Storms Will Wipe Out the Earth This Week! Or Will They?

Solar Storms

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Solar storms aren’t too rare, but if strong enough, could cause damage to navigation systems like GPS, and certain communications systems like our cell service. But the recent warning from various international news outlets about an intense solar storm hitting Earth this week are probably not true.

In fact, the big ones already happened and most people didn’t even know it.

The Times of India reported yesterday that a high-speed solar storm “approaching 1.6 million kilometers per hour” was headed toward the earth and would arrive later today (Tuesday). The Hindustan Times reported something very similar, but stated that the arrival would be more like Sunday or Monday.

A solar storm is pretty much as scary as it sounds. It’s a storm in space that is caused by disturbances on the sun — a.k.a. sunspots or solar flares. This happens constantly in and around the sun, but we only need to be concerned when the storms are both big enough to reach the earth and pointing in the right direction.

“The current storm is a result of a ‘hole’ in the Sun’s equatorial region,” The Times of India reports. “NASA first detected it on July 3, and classified it as an X1.5-class flare.”

Back in May, one of the strongest geomagnetic solar storms in years reached Earth, but still didn’t disrupt much. As reported by Bloomberg at the time, “Few people probably even knew it happened — but it served as a reminder the sun has woken from a years-long slumber.”

Yikes! If that isn’t enough to get us fired up about solar storms, I don’t know what is.

Solar Flare EventBut it is still important to take these storms seriously in the event that a severe occurrence reaches our planet. Worst case scenario (aside from the obvious scorching of the earth) is complete loss of satellites, radio communications, airline navigation (while thousands of planes are in the sky at any moment), and the power grid. While it might sound like something out of an S.M. Sterling book, you have to admit that it would kinda suck for a while.

“It is still remarkable to me the number of people, companies, who think space weather is Hollywood fiction,” said Caitlin Durkovich, senior director of resilience and response in the National Security Council, during a talk at a solar-weather conference in April.

The solar storms that happened last week — both from solar flares — were the strongest we’ve seen in 4 years, but they only caused brief radio interference for a few hours, according to

The Space Weather Prediction Center says that no significant events are on the horizon for this month with solar activity at “very low levels” and Earth’s geomagnetic field at “quiet to active levels” through to the first week of August.

So for those of you with solar storms on your apocalyptic bingo card, you may have to wait a bit longer for that big payout.

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Shawn has been infatuated with the post-apocalyptic genre since he wore out his horribly American-dubbed VHS of the original Mad Max as a child. Shawn is the former Editor-in-Chief at Joystiq's, creator of the Aftermath post-apocalyptic immersion event, and host of the Through the Aftermath podcast for over 11 years. He currently resides on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere with his wife and four children.

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