The problem isn't sunburns or melanoma, it's the drastic effect on communication and electronics.
Solar storms are eruptions of energy and matter that escape from the sun and may head toward Earth, where even a weak storm can damage satellites and power grids, disrupting communications, the electric power supply and GPS. A single strong blast of “solar wind” can threaten national security, transportation, financial services and other essential functions.One to Two Trillion Dollars, eh?
"As with hurricanes, whether a cycle is active or weak refers to the number of storms, but everyone needs to remember it only takes one powerful storm to cause huge problems," said NOAA scientist Doug Biesecker, who chairs the panel. "The strongest solar storm on record occurred in 1859 during another below-average cycle."
The 1859 storm shorted out telegraph wires, causing fires in North America and Europe, sent readings of Earth’s magnetic field soaring, and produced northern lights so bright that people read newspapers by their light.
A recent report by the National Academy of Sciences found that if a storm that severe occurred today, it could cause $1-2 trillion in damages the first year and require four to 10 years for recovery, compared to $80-125 billion that resulted from Hurricane Katrina.
The question you have to ask yourself is "In what way will this be more disastrous than Obama's Economic Stimulus Package?"
According to a May 28, 2009 Fox News report, the U.S. is not prepared for such a storm.
Scientists at the 2009 Space Weather Enterprise Forum spoke of ...
... the legendary "Carrington Event," a series of magnetic storms from the sun that hit the Earth in August and September of 1859, disrupting telegraph lines across the U.S. and triggering auroras so bright they turned the night skies into day as far south as the Caribbean. The storm went on for days.In 1859, that was inconvenient for the few people who regularly expected to send or receive telegrams, but other than that it was probably was only -- "interesting".
Even in 1959, almost every home in the United States had electricity, and there were few electronic system to demonstrate their vulnerability to "power surges".
There are lessons to be learned from these past events, the researchers emphasized, and the danger posed by solar storms is increasing.
This growing threat comes not from changes in the Sun, but from the increasing dependence of human societies on technology and electricity.
A storm on the scale of the Carrington Event could damage the U.S. electrical grid to such an extent that vast regions of the country could be without power for weeks, perhaps months.
Without electricity, drinkable water would soon be in short supply, as would fuel, food, communications and just about everything else society depends on to function.
An extreme solar storm hitting our modern, high-tech world would severely disrupt oil and gas supplies, emergency and government services, the banking and finance industry, and transportation. The cost of the damage could reach into the trillions of dollars, he said.short supply, as would fuel, food, communications and just about everything else society depends on to function.
"The consequences would be almost incalculable," said Daniel Baker, director of the University of Colorado's laboratory for atmospheric and space physics
New electrical systems are designed to be efficient, which is different from being robust and hardened against the effects of a solar storm.
"There is an efficiency-vulnerability tradeoff," said George Mason University social scientist Todd LaPorte, who studies critical infrastructures. "Sometimes efficiency isn't your friend."
Sounds almost like the effects of the ElectroMagnetic Pulse (EMP) generated by a nuclear device detonating in the atmosphere. Remember that television movie (The Day After) in the early 1980's, where Jason Robard showed us what it was like to be caught on the very fringes of a nuclear attack? Everybody's car died, and most of the people in them.
I don't think we have to worry about a "Nuclear Winter", or people's hair falling out from radiation poisoning, but folks who telecommute to work may have a new definition of the "Network" concept.