Solar Flares Affect Planet Earth Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

The last major x-ray flare occurred in 2003 ("O'Dell). Most of the energy from an x-ray flare is absorbed by the earth's ionosphere ("O'Dell). Thus, a CME can be far more dangerous for human societies than an x-ray flare.

The first and most subtle observable phenomenon signaling an upcoming solar storm are known as coronal loops, which are "kinks in the magnetic flux form" forced to the surface of the sun due to a buildup of magnetic energy (O'Dell). Dark spots on the sun's surface then appear, usually in the "footprint" of the coronal loops ("O'Dell). The dark spots visibly signal the buildup of magnetism. NASA describes the phenomenon of solar flares as occurring in three stages: a precursor stage, an impulsive stage, and a decay stage. During the precursor stage, the release of magnetic energy is only triggered and leads to "soft x-ray emissions," ("What is a Solar Flare?"). The impulsive stage is characterized by the acceleration of protons and electrons, and the decay stage is the gradual build up and decay of soft x-rays ("What is a Solar Flare?"). All three stages together can last between a few seconds to an hour and occur before a coronal loop forms on the surface ("What is a Solar Flare?").

The March 13, 1989 CME resulted in stunning auroras that could be seen as far south as Cuba, according to Hadhazy. Solar flares usually tend to affect regions closer to the arctic because of the "frequent ground currents in northern latitudes," (Hadhazy). No matter how stunning the light display, the CME did adversely affect satellites orbiting the Earth and also crashed a major Canadian power grid. The CME radiation caused a "power overload" that deprived six million subscribers to Canada's Hydro-Quebec for nine hours (Hadhazy).

Hadhazy notes that prior to the mass production of electricity solar flares and CMEs may have been even larger than the one on March 13, 1989. The increased dependence on electricity generation and the proliferation of satellite technologies means that solar radiation threatens to damage major security and communications systems worldwide. Banking systems and public water supplies are among the most crucial industries that could suffer from solar storms, causing widespread panic and socioeconomic devastation (Hadhazy). Other consequences from solar flares include rust buildup and corrosion of public works and petroleum transportation pipelines. Voltage fluctuations on mainline power grids could prove dangerous too. Solar flares are highly likely to interfere with global positioning system (GPS) devices, which could prove deadly for airline passengers.

References

Hadhazy, Adam. "A Scary 13th: 20 Years Ago, Earth Was Blasted with a Massive Plume of Solar Plasma." Scientific American. Mar 13, 2009. Retrieved Mar 20, 2009 at http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=geomagnetic-storm-march-13-1989-extreme-space-weather

O'Neill, Ian. "2012: No Killer Solar Flare." Universe Today. June 21, 2008. Retrieved Mar 20, 2009…

Sources Used in Document:

References

Hadhazy, Adam. "A Scary 13th: 20 Years Ago, Earth Was Blasted with a Massive Plume of Solar Plasma." Scientific American. Mar 13, 2009. Retrieved Mar 20, 2009 at http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=geomagnetic-storm-march-13-1989-extreme-space-weather

O'Neill, Ian. "2012: No Killer Solar Flare." Universe Today. June 21, 2008. Retrieved Mar 20, 2009 at http://www.universetoday.com/2008/06/21/2012-no-killer-solar-flare/

What is a Solar Flare?" Retrieved Mar 20, 2009 at http://hesperia.gsfc.nasa.gov/sftheory/flare.htm

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