Solar Storm Could Kill Global Internet for Months — Study

Massive solar storms hit Earth every few decades, but the one in 1859 literally turned night into day, and fried the telegraph system.


NSFW    IRVINE, CALIFORNIA — In 1859 a massive solar storm hit the Earth, turning the night sky into an eerily beautiful version of daytime. But the storm also caused significant damage to Earth’s primitive communication system of the time, the telegraph system.

If such a powerful magnetic wave were to hit the Earth today, our highly sensitive communication systems would crash and burn.

A new study now says the global internet would be the hardest to fix, and could be knocked out for months on end. Here are the details:

Wired Magazine reports that a new study shows that the internet could be knocked out for many months if a massive solar storm hits the planet again, like it did in 1859 and 1921.

Researchers looked at the infrastructure required to keep the world’s internet running, and found that undersea internet cables would be most at risk.

While the optical fibers inside these cables can’t be damaged by magnetized solar particles, their electronic repeaters can get permanently fried.

These electrical devices are placed between 50 and 150 kilometers apart, and they have the very important function of boosting the signal before it fades inside the cables.

The study found that, while regional internet grids could be fixed quickly, international internet connections could be knocked out for weeks because it would take a long time to replace hundreds of repeaters situated at the bottom of the ocean.

The study was done by assistant professor Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi from the University of California, who said the issue needs to be studied more deeply, as little is known about how solar storms would affect power systems under the ocean.

Abdu Jyothi added that undersea cables near the Earth’s poles would be affected more severely by solar storms, while cables near the equator would be less affected.

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