March 19, 2014
Coronal Mass Ejection Barely Missed Earth In 2012

It was on par with the 1859 Carrington Event and would have caused massive electric grid collapses.

I do not want to see a civilizational collapse due to lack of electricity. We ought to have big electric power transformers stockpiled underground along with any other vulnerable but essential pieces of our electric power infrastructure. We are incredibly dependent on electric power and our civilization would collapse very rapidly without it. Our population densities preclude a shift back to a lower tech lifestyle without a big die-off.

I've said this before.

If you happen to live in a really really rural area where people from cities won't be able to reach and you prepare adequately you could live thru the consequences of a grid fried for a year or two. Afterward you could get some really nice ocean front property for cheap.

I have to admit I am not prepared for the collapse of the grid. I live in an area too densely populated and do not have a remote rural home or an old diesel car and hidden diesel fuel suitable for reaching it.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2014 March 19 08:46 PM 

David Friedman said at March 20, 2014 12:14 AM:

I haven't seen any figures as to how "barely" it missed earth. Saying it missed earth by a week sounds scary--but if it only lasted for ten seconds, that's a huge miss.

James Bowery said at March 20, 2014 3:53 AM:

There is very poor actuarial consensus.


to page 19 of

Basically, the insurance industry is broken, not that this is news.

Matt said at March 22, 2014 12:52 AM:

How long do these things last? I'm wondering if only one side of the earth would get hit. Also, does turning off electrical equipment help? If so, could areas on the other side of the planet have time to prepare?

Ronald Brak said at March 22, 2014 2:48 AM:

Matt, Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) might last a few hours and take about 1 to 5 days to reach earth. The sun is monitored and operators of electrical grids are notified of any potential danger. It's not really possible to be taken by surprise and precautions can be taken to protect grids. CMEs don't seem like a major threat to me, but maybe I'll read the links James kindly provided and see if they change my mind.

Thorfinnsson said at March 22, 2014 10:26 PM:

An alternative to burial is electromagnetic shielding, the most robust example being a Faraday cage. It's not just our electric grid we need to worry about, but all electronics. Transistor based electronics are far more vulnerable than vacuum tube electronics. Ever shrinking die sizes increase the vulnerability of integrated circuits. EMP hardened semiconductors exist, but are mostly only consumed by the military and are thus very expensive.

It's not just CMEs we should worry about either. EMP attacks are a danger as well, especially high altitude nuclear explosions.

vivekananthan j said at March 23, 2014 11:02 PM:

I AM a student ME thermal engineering so i did my project in PCM used in automobiles cabin so please I need this help

say goodnight, gracie. said at March 24, 2014 3:25 PM:

lower tech works well: vacuum tubes are very resitant to emp. that's why the us air force still uses them in nuke silos for control. not everything new and high tech is better.

Brett Bellmore said at March 26, 2014 9:42 AM:

CMEs and EMP work on wildly different frequency ranges. The CME is dangerous because the magnetic field displacement across long powerlines can build up huge voltages, drive enormous currents. But in the space of a house, let alone a cell phone, the induced voltage would be trivial. CME's can't touch something not connected to the grid, and the answer to them is to break up the connectivity of the grid before they hit, and, ideally, short the long powerlines to ground at intervals.

EMP is dangerous because the *high* frequencies can induce high voltages in even short wiring runs, producing very short lived voltage spikes that rise so fast conventional fuses can't blow fast enough. Being disconnected from the grid doesn't help much, Faraday cages are the answer here.

It's like comparing an earthquake with a gun shot. Aside from being electromagnetic, they're almost completely different.

Randall Parker said at March 26, 2014 8:20 PM:


I do not think burial is needed. We've got plenty of natural caves and mines for easy access.

EMP attacks: Yes, we aren't ready for one of those.

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