New Map On Transmission Infrastructure Vulnerable To Magnetic Storms
- Apr 7, 2020 7:44 pm GMT
This morning, I came across an interesting article on physicsworld.com highlighting some disturbing takeaways from a recent US Geological Survey study. Basically, the agency has identified many of the country’s power lines to be vulnerable to a “once-in-a-century magnetic super-storm”.
The article’s author describes the natural phenomena, writing: “Geomagnetic storms are rare disturbances of the Earth’s magnetic environment that begin with large ejections of charged particles from the Sun that boost the intensity of the solar wind. When these particles reach Earth, they interact with the magnetosphere and ionosphere to create a magnetic storm. If the original coronal mass ejection is large enough, the result is a magnetic super-storm.”
Such storms have bugged the worlds’ grids and communication systems before. In 1989, for example, a magnetic storm caused a 9 hour blackout in Quebec, Canada. A similar event in 1859 stuck down many North American telegraph networks, causing some stations to catch on fire.
The report cautions that if a storm of the same magnitude that struck in 1859 were to happen today, the economic consequences would be far greater. It would cause widespread blackouts and damage infrastructure, costing the economy around $2 trillion in total.
Due mostly to geologic features, four regions in the U.S. are considered particularly vulnerable: the East Coast; the Denver metropolitan area; the Pacific Northwest; and the Upper Midwest.
The article is pretty scant on advice on how to prepare for a magnetic super-storm, but it points out that long transmission lines are at greater risk than shorter ones. However, it should be noted that the study and accompanying map are not yet complete.