Physics-based Space Weather forecasting; faster, please

Martin-stojanovski-sun_martin_stojanovski_1289132681_med

image from spaceweather.com

In Sept. 1859, on the eve of a below-average solar cycle, the sun unleashed one of the most powerful storms in centuries. The underlying flare was so unusual, researchers still aren’t sure how to categorize it.  The blast peppered Earth with the most energetic protons in half-a-millennium, induced electrical currents that set telegraph offices on fire, and sparked Northern Lights over Cuba and Hawaii.

This week, officials have gathered at the National Press Club in Washington DC to ask themselves a simple question: What if it happens again?

A Carrington Event class solar eruption would be a catastrophic blow to civilization as it would almost certainly cause widespread damage to our electric power infrastructure. From historical records, we know that large storms causing low latitude auroras occur about once a century. We are statistically overdue, and we know that weak solar cycles do not rule out very high energy events.

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