A solar storm that will spark an Internet apocalypse? Here is the truth

Can a solar storm really wreak havoc on the world’s Internet? Know where things really stand and whether you should worry. (Nasa)

A solar storm that can cause an Internet apocalypse is increasingly being reported as the Sun heads towards the solar maximum.

A solar storm that can take down the Internet? Talk of an Internet Apocalypse has been around for years and sparking this kind of speculation is none other than our Sun. It has a very volatile nature that rises and wanes according to an 11-year solar cycle. When it reaches the solar maximum, the volatility increases manifold and notably, the years 2025-2025 are expected to see this happen. In simple terms, various regions on the Sun can explode in the form of solar flares. Huge amounts of energy that is thereby emitted is sent outwards in space and if Earth is anywhere in the line of that, it faces an onslaught. When such a solar storm hits the Earth it can have severe implications depending on the strength of the storm generated. The consequences on the lighter side is the generation of aurora on the poles of the planet and in severe cases, it may even lead to the knocking out of power grids as has happened before. Satellites and other electronics infrastructure, including the Internet, too can be affected.

But having said all that, what are the chances of this happening? Is the Internet apocalypse coming soon? Well, the potential for destruction, courtesy a very powerful solar storm is quite negligible, according to a recent report by NOW.

It argues that such claims are more hype than substance. While the Sun is definitely reaching the solar maximum, the generation of a killer solar storm is unlikely. That also does not mean there is no risk as is proved by the calamitous Carrington event in September 1859. During that event, telegraphs stopped working and many operators suffered shocks and there were even fires. The auroras thereby generated were seen in areas that they had never been seen before, down Southwards. But such events mostly happen once-a-century or even more infrequently.

A study that is often quoted to bolster the Internet apocalypse theory is by researcher Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi titled “Solar Superstorms: Planning for an Internet Apocalypse”. She averred that if a significantly powerful solar flare did happen, it could lead to an Internet apocalypse. However, she did not indicate it would happen. She only averred that the world should be aware of the risk and prepared for such an eventuality. She highlighted that the undersea cables that carry the world’s Internet may be susceptible to a large solar storm.

So, there, you know now where things really stand. Know all about the risk, but also be aware of what is merely speculative claims.

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