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  • The Sun Is Not Always Your Friend

    In the early morning of August 9, the sun released a massive solar flare—the largest in four years—sending huge blasts of radiation out into space. Thankfully, the solar eruption was facing away from the earth. Yet, if the site of the solar eruption had been slightly different, the outcome could have been very different.

    In 1859, British scientist Richard Carrington recorded the effects of a geomagnetic storm as it played out on earth in an event that is called the “Carrington Effect”—intense solar activity that can disrupt modern life dramatically. During Carrington’s time, few electromechanical systems were vulnerable to incoming solar radiation. There was the new telegraph system, however. During the event, it is said that solar-induced power surges knocked some operators from their chairs and set fire to the paper rolls used to record dashes and dots. Another Carrington-class storm today would dwarf these effects.

    Today, the United States, the U.S. military, and the entire world are far more dependent on electrical infrastructure. This is a major vulnerability given that much of the planet’s energy and communications infrastructure is still too fragile to weather a massive electromagnetic onslaught. Fortunately, no Carrington Effect has occurred again since the whole world became hooked on electronics. Yet manmade threats can deliver the same damage.

    A high-altitude nuclear explosion can create an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that mimics a solar tsunami. It too has the potential to decimate America’s electrical and technological infrastructure, effectively sending the U.S. back to the 19th century—to a world without cars, cell phones, computers, or any of the critical electrical infrastructures that the American people and U.S. armed forces depend upon.

    Indeed, the congressionally mandated Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack found that an EMP attack “is one of a small number of threats that has the potential to hold our society seriously at risk and might result in defeat of our military forces.” It also found that a determined adversary such as Iran or a terrorist group can achieve an EMP attack capability without having a high level of sophistication. The commission also warned that “China and Russia have considered limited nuclear attack options that, unlike their Cold War plans, employ EMP as the primary or sole means of attack.”

    The commission’s report represents the consensus view of the defense and intelligence communities as well as the nuclear weapon labs. In all, five commissions and major independent U.S. government studies have independently concurred with the EMP commission’s threat assessment and recommendations. Despite this broad consensus, Congress has yet to act in a substantive manner.

    For the past several years, The Heritage Foundation has been working to raise awareness on the EMP threat and seek solutions to correcting this vulnerability by calling for a national EMP recognition day. This year’s event will coincide with the anniversary of the 2003 East Coast blackout, the results of which were just a small example of the devastation that could occur from an EMP attack on the United States.

    To learn more, join us at Heritage on August 15 for a keynote panel discussion on “National EMP Recognition Day: The Threat That Can’t Be Ignored.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    9 Responses to The Sun Is Not Always Your Friend

    1. Harry Schell says:

      Another reason government spending must be trimmed significantly…how can a broke nation recover from such a flare going the wrong way?

    2. Fresno4 says:

      I just read a good electromagnetic pulse fiction book called Preppers Road March by Ron Foster that covered how one man had to survive a solar event such as you describe.

    3. Gayle says:

      The government will handle this the way it does everything else……handle it after the fact…….forward thinking in Washington DC doesn't exist, in my opinion, unless one is planning an election.

      • Steve S. says:

        With the current state of affairs, there will be no government and precious few of us (10%) left after the first year post event, so the point is moot. What we have is a self absorbed government with certain factions incapable of even making fundamental prioritizing decisions, facing reality and acting accordingly. Some of the responses I’ve seen here in the last few days are indicative of some of the same behaviors. Take Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and apply to the nation, if not the whole world, and it becomes what should be a no-brainer. Survival is priority one, as all others become irrelevant if that fails. Given that the possibility of a natural event is extremely high (when, not if), it is the height of folly to delay action, a practice reserved for the foolish, to be paid for by loss of our way of life, our society and very lives. The extreme possibility of a man made event makes failure to fund adequate defense, especially since systems have been developed and proven despite claims to the contrary, possibly the stupidest move made in the history of this nation (only in bitter retrospect for many).

        • Steve S. says:

          As many bemoan the numerous challenges which we face, the time is now to ACT, not to retreat or revert to nursery infantile behavior. Responsible, not reprehensible government focused on the most crucial matters, with true leadership (requires vision) is a must. Indications are, our current government is not up to the task.

    4. Lloyd Scallan says:

      I got it! Since Obama said the seas would cease to rise, the air would be cleaner, and the world be a
      better place, if he were elected, the solution to solar flares is Obama. He would stop all harmful solar activities only if we would reelected him. Obama will tell the American he can do this, but he will not allow this nation to protect itself from EMP's by crippling our Missel Defense System with cuts that will be "transformed" into the pockets of those that depend on government handouts, which just happens to be almost all Dem. voters.

    5. AmandaK says:

      When I heard about EMP and the things that one can do, I started to read and look more into them and about how I can prepare. I have found really great blogs and articles that I always go back to, mainly this one radio blog. They have guest(s) on every Wednesday, it's online. Next Wednesday the 14th two authors are going to be on their show, Paul Palango and Reza Kahlili. It should be really interesting to listen to. Here's the link if you want to check it out: http://empactradio.org/pvp/pvp66-paul-palango/

    6. AmandaK says:

      I posted on this before about Paul Palango and Reza Kahlili being on that radio show (EMPactRadio) a while ago. But I wanted to let people know that Reza Kahlili is actually going to be back on that radio show again this Wednesday if you missed him last time or if you want to listen to him again! He's really great! Here's the link for this Wednesday's show: http://empactradio.org/pvp/episode88-reza-kahlili

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