White House Preparing for Catastrophic Solar Flares

'This is a real and present danger'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 30, 2015 5:23 PM CDT
White House Preparing for Catastrophic Solar Flares
A big enough solar flare could wipe out electricity on Earth. The White House announced Thursday it wants to be ready.   (AP Photo/NASA)

If a giant solar flare hit the Earth, it could knock out the entire power grid, meaning no more new Justin Bieber singles, no more televised presidential debates, and no more Facebook photos of babies. But it wouldn't be all good news. The Washington Post reports the electromagnetic pulse—or EMP—created by such an event could wipe out electricity for months on end, creating a global catastrophe. That's why the White House released its National Space Weather Strategy on Thursday. According to the Houston Chronicle, the multiagency plan details how the US will prepare for—and deal with—a massive EMP from space weather. The six-step plan requires government agencies, schools, the media, the insurance industry, nonprofits, and more to work together. In other words: We might be doomed.

“This is a real and present danger," the White House's assistant director for space weather tells the Post. Back in 1859, a huge solar storm did impact Earth and caused some sparking telegraph lines. The National Academy of Sciences says something like that today could mean a $2 trillion economic hit. Something like that almost did happen in 2012, when NASA says we were nearly hit by two large plasma clouds. "If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces," one physicist says. The White House's new plan calls for the US to get better at predicting space weather, shore up our infrastructure against EMPs, and more, the Chronicle reports. It's a plan we may truly need: The Post quotes NASA as stating there's a 12% chance of a giant solar flare in the next 10 years. (Escape doomsday in a luxury missile silo.)

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