Science in Fiction: The True Carrington Event #scienceinfiction

I’ve read or watched over and over again how a Carrington Event now would be like an apocalypse.  To some, they make it sound like setting off an HEMP (See My Article on EMPs).  While it would cause a bit of chaos (and for GPS and telecom companies, possibly a small fortune), it wouldn’t be the end of the world as we know it.

What IS a Carrington Event?

A Carrington Event, or more appropriately titled a CME or coronal mass ejection, is a cloud of charged particles (think lightning only with a very different type of light show) coming after a storm on the sun.  This CME causes what’s called a geomagnetic storm, which is the direct cause of any effects we would see.

What would LIKELY Happen?

The biggest damage would likely be to anything in the upper atmosphere.  GPS and satellites could be knocked out of orbit, causing them to burn up in atmosphere.  They could also be damaged by electrical charges generated by the storm (sort of like being hit by lightning only at a much lower strength), frying electrical circuitry.  For us?  We might have problems with our turn-by-turn directions and our cell phones might have problems.

Auroras would show up in places that had never seen them before (which is totally cool and I would love to see).  This is the direct effect those charged particles have on our atmosphere.  My suggestion would be whip out the lawn chair and enjoy the show.  There might not be any shows playing for a while…

TV and radio stations would be unaffected, though other types of radio transmissions would be.  However, military and FAA are prepared for these problems and have plans in place to prevent irregularities.

The electrical grid would become unstable.  In the US specifically, we would likely see localized power outages.  We might see wider spread outages but no permanent damage for the most part.  It would be a lot like a tornado, hurricane or bad thunderstorm when it comes to the effect on the electrical grid.  You could be out of power for a while but the power companies are actively working on getting them back up and running.  Europe might not see any problems at all due to differences in power transmission.

What is the WORST Case Scenario?

Worst case scenario?  The storm blows transformers, shutting down portions of the power grid.  With planning, the power companies can prevent a blackout from spreading, but it might be similar to what happens during natural disasters with there being insufficient resources to replace damaged parts.  Power companies would be playing triage, getting power back to the most people they can in the smallest amount of time.  Most likely, people in more rural areas may go without power longer, but even in extreme causes, it wouldn’t be anywhere near as bad as Hurricane Katrina.

But what about the 1859 Carrington Event?

This is the storm everyone refers back to, with blackouts and telegraph operators being shocked by the currents.  But telegraphs operated differently than almost any technology today, with lines running for miles and miles without interruptions.  This made telegraph lines highly vulnerable to this type of event, and it also why the US would be more affected than Europe (our power lines are longer than Europe’s).


So relax, the world’s not coming to an end yet.

Discover more from Danielle Forrest | Sci-Fi Romance Author

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