The Carrington Effect

Weekend Variety Wireless 24/06/2018
Credit: File.

In 1859, the Earth was smacked by a massively powerful solar flare which melted telegraph wires.

We narrowly missed one in 2012 but haven’t been hit by one quite so strong since, so what if it happened today?

Computer Science and Electrical Engineering Associate Professor Nirmal Nair joins Graeme Hill.

The sun is a very dynamic generator. When dramatic magnetic activity happens in and around the sun, coronal material is mass ejected on a trajectory through the solar system.

The intensity and direction of the coronal mass ejections would determine whether one was to fire towards the earth’s magnetosphere.

In 1859, the electric telegraph was used for communication. Today our reliance is so massively electricity based.

Mr Nair explains that if a coronal mass ejection was to reach us it would take around three to four days. Upon its arrival, however, it would cause massive blackouts.

Coronal mass ejections cause issues with the earth’s magnetic circuit risking electromagnetic saturation of transformers.

With current technology that would notify of the solar event in advance, power companies have the ability to take transformers offline before such events.

Mr Nirmal delves into the consequences of interdependent infrastructure.

Listen to the full interview with Nirmal Nair above.

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