As some of you know, I am a Ham radio operator, KM4DEO. As such, I keep up with some things that most would find odd, like sun spots, CME’s (Coronal Mass Ejections) and other things collectively known as “space weather”. Knowing this helps Hams know when the ionosphere has good conditions for radio contacts and on what frequencies radio contacts can most easily be made.
Now, this means nothing to most of you most of the time. However, on rare occasions this kind of info can help everyone, not just Hams and other space weather geeks, and this is one of those rare occasions.
Monday night/Tuesday morning there was an eruption of the magnetic canopy of a very large sunspot (sunspot AR2 158 if you want the details). The eruption lasted more than 6 hours, peaked at 00:30 UTC yesterday, and sent a Coronal Mass Ejection racing outward from the sun at over 2.2 million miles per hour.
This means two things for my friends in JuicyMaters Land (and your friends. This is important. Spread it around…share this site and this particular post’s web address), one good, one bad.
A Good News/Bad News Event
First the good. For my friends who live across the northern tier of the 48 contiguous states (think Maine, Michigan, North Dakota, etc), on Thursday night auroras will be visible a lot further south than normal, and the show should be spectacular.
Next the bad. The CME and its effects will reach earth at ABOUT midnight or shortly thereafter on Thursday, September 11, and those effects have the potential to be spectacular as well, just not in a good way.
This solar storm is huge folks. If it had been located so the eruption had been aimed directly at Earth there is no doubt the effects would be horrific. Since the direction of the eruption of the storm was a off a degree or two from a direct sun to earth line however, we will only receive a glancing blow from the storm…but even that glancing blow has the potential to disrupt our lives in a variety of ways, some dramatically.
- There is the significant possibility of nationwide (worldwide actually) power grid disruption.
- All public transportation may be affected to a greater or lesser degree, including airline operations, due to the potential disruption of anything run or controlled by a computer.
- On a personal basis, a few people (or a lot of people) may have their power disrupted for an indeterminate length of time. Everything we own that either IS a computer or is run by some sort of computer is potentially at risk. This includes cell phones, televisions (the TV itself, not just your cable or dish service), cars in the post-computer control years (I LOVE my 1986 Ford pickup, but even it isn’t old enough to avoid computer controllers completely), newer model major appliances (my refrigerator has 3 – THREE – computer control circuit boards and my dishwasher has two), and a plethora of other items.
So…what to do?
For control freaks (like me…hehehe) its frustrating to be completely unable to actually do anything to prevent something bad from happening, including Coronal Mass Ejections. However, while we can’t prevent the event, we do have some control over if and how it may effect us. Here are my plans for the event time (starting 4 hours pre-predicted event time of midnight tomorrow UTC, Eastern time plus 4 hours, to 4 hours post-event):
- I will NOT be traveling anywhere using any type of transportation that relys on a computer to operate, be it car, boat, or airplane.
- I will unplug all appliances in the house from power.
- I will disconnect the power to anything battery operated that has a computer involved in running it. This includes the car and pickup truck.
- My Ham and CB radio equipment will be disconnected from all power sources and antennas.
- My family and I will be prepared to do without electricity or other conveniences for a week, prepared for no electricity, water (except what is stored specifically for emergencies) or transportation for at least a week…just in case.
In other words…no change for folks who are already living a preparedness lifestyle.