Do-Nothing Congress Ignores Threat from the Sun

If you're going to land on the surface of the sun, do it at night when it's not so hot. A
Slashdot contributor gazes up into the firmament
and is frozen
with horror at the madness dwelling in the deep skyey
voids: 

A privately employed solar scientist named Pete Riley estimates
there’s a 12 percent chance of a massive solar storm comparable to
the Carrington Event in 1859 which resulted in breathtaking aurorae
across the United States and other temperate regions of the globe.
The electromagnetic surge from the 1859 event caused failures of
telegraph systems across Europe and North America. A similar storm
today could knock out power grids, GPS and communication
satellites, data centers, transportation systems, and building and
plumbing infrastructures and wreak $1 trillion or more of economic
damage in the first year alone, according to a 2008 report from the
National Academy of Sciences.

In the journal Space Weather, Riley
explains how he got his figures
:

By showing that the frequency of occurrence scales as an inverse
power of the severity of the event, and assuming that this
relationship holds at higher magnitudes, we are able to estimate
the probability that an event larger than some criteria will occur
within a certain interval of time in the future. For example, the
probability of another Carrington event (based on Dst −850 nT)
occurring within the next decade is ∼12%

At Wired, Adam
Mann has details on the Great Chastisement

When they hit the Earth’s atmosphere, those [solar particles
traveling at 4 million MPH] generated the intense ghostly ribbons
of light known as auroras. Though typically relegated to the most
northerly and southerly parts of the planet, the atmospheric
phenomenon [in 1859] reached as far as Cuba, Hawaii, and northern
Chile. People in New York City gathered on sidewalks and rooftops
to watch “the heavens … arrayed in a drapery more gorgeous than
they have been for years,” as The New York Times described it.

Auroras may be beautiful, but the charged particles can wreak
havoc on electrical systems. At the time

You can read the rest of this article at: http://reason.com/blog/2012/03/02/do-nothing-congress-ignores-threat-from

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