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Current Affairs

Solar storm and internet connection

Date: 14 September 2021 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

Disruption of the internet, damage submarine cables and communication satellites can be caused by powerful solar storm.

 

Background

There is a 1.6 to 2 per cent chance of such an extreme space weather event happening within the next decade.

 

Details

  • A solar storm or a Coronal Mass Ejection is an ejection of highly magnetised particles from the sun’s surface.

  • The particles can travel at a speed of several million km per hour. It can take about 13 hours to five days to reach Earth.

  • The particles can affect man-made structures such as strong electric currents on the surface by interacting with Earth’s magnetic field.

 

History

  • One of the first recorded solar storm occurred in 1859. It reached Earth in about 17 hours. Telegraph network and many operators experienced electric shocks.

  • The storm of 1921 impacted New York telegraphs and railroad systems. A small-scale storm collapsed the power grid in Quebec.

 

Solar activity

  • There are no studies to find out if our current infrastructure can withstand a powerful solar storm because majority of our technology developed when sun was its lowest activity.

  • The Sun is going towards the peaks of the 100-year cycle. It is most likely that a solar storm will soon be experienced in the upcoming decades.

 

Effects on India

  • Simulation studies have shown that India will be majorly unaffected due to failure of submarine internet cable due to solar storms.

  • Compared to cities of China, major cities of India such as Mumbai and Chennai will have some sort of connectivity between different countries.

  • Countries present at lower latitudes are at a much lower risk. This makes India less vulnerable in comparison to US.

 

Saving internet

  • The best possible solution would be shutdown. Saving internet connection during solar storms can save major infrastructure.

  • Proper protocols have to be designed for power companies and internet service providers to follow once solar storm warning is received.

 

Failure mechanism

  • Solar storms can generate geomagnetic variations that can develop large currents in networks that can conduct electricity.

  • Electrical components present in internet connection network can be damaged due to excessive current.

 

Possible effects of solar particles

About 20-40 million people of US could be without power for 1-2 years if a solar storm hits. Economic costs would be $0.6-2.6 trillion.