Wednesday, August 07, 2013

"Perfect Disaster: Solar Storm" from Discovery Channel traces how a solar superstorm gradually takes down the entire worldwide power grid

Perfect Disaster: Solar Storm:  Informative Dramatization of Grid Collapse”, posted by “ZP ZAP” Jan. 2013), is a 43-minute documentary from the Discovery Channel(edited by Ben Giles) depicting the possible consequences of a massive and prolonged solar storm.   The YouTube link is here. The Discovery official site is here
The film starts with a power outage in Brooklyn, NY when at the same time a space satellite burns up and crashes into a cemetery.  Soon scientists from NOAA converge.

The “solar maximum” in the sunspot cycle has weakened the Earth’s magnetic field somewhat, and then there is a massive CME or coronal mass ejection from a Jupiter-sized sunspot.  No one knows how long it will take the CME to reach the Earth.
The signs of impending disaster accumulate gradually.  The solar storm strikes in stages.  The solar flare moves ahead of the CME, just taking 8 minutes (at the speed of light).  Next comes a radiation storm, a few hours later.  That affects astronauts and objects in space.   Then the CME, the last phase of the “perfect storm” arrives in a few days, like a “Lucifer’s Hammer”.
Electromagnetic storms are measured in “nano-Tesla” units.  The one in the film is larger than the 1859 Carrington event.  The fictitious storm measures 240;  Carrington measured 200.
The utility tries to power down just before the CME hits. Power is shut down first in Brooklyn, in an attempt to protect large transformers, very difficult to replace.
The auroras reach all the way down to the Equator. People don’t completely understand the ominous threat – power out in many areas for months or years.
Officials suddenly announce the concern about the approaching solar storm, and the utility notices enormous power surges.

The modern world comes to a standstill around the globe 39 minutes into the film.
Backup generators can work about three days for most hospitals.
Over 200 transformers are destroyed in the U.S.  And we can’t make them quickly at home.  Money means nothing now.  A Maoist world ensues.  Everyone is brought low.

Or perhaps not.  Maybe the prophylactic blackouts save the grid. 

Pictures: from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, July 2013 trip.  Last picture: a transformer manufacturer in Roanoke, VA.

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