The world is overdue a ferocious ‘space storm’ that could knock out communications satellites, ground aircraft and trigger blackouts – causing hundreds of billions of pounds of damage, scientists say.
Astronomers today warned that mankind is now more vulnerable to a major solar storm than at any time in history – and that the planet should prepare for a global Katrina-style disaster.
A massive eruption of the sun would save waves of radiation and charged particles to Earth, damaging the satellite systems used for synchronising computers, airline navigation and phone networks.
Imminent: The world got a taste of the sun’s explosive power last week with the strongest solar eruption in five years (white flash, centre) sent a torrent of charged plasma hurtling towards the world. Scientists believe we are overdue a ferocious solar storm
If the storm is powerful enough it could even crash stock markets and cause power cuts that last weeks or months, experts told the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The chances of a disruption from space are getting stronger because the sun is entering the most active period of its 11- to 12-year natural cycle.
The world got a taster of the sun’s explosive power last week when the strongest solar eruption in five years sent a torrent of charged plasma hurtling towards the world at 580 miles per second.
The storm created spectacular aurorae and disrupted radio communications.
Professor Sir John Beddington, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said: ‘The issue of space weather has got to be taken seriously. We’ve had a relatively quiet period of space weather – but we can’t expect that quiet period to continue.
‘At the same time over that period the potential vulnerability of our systems has increased dramatically, whether it is the smart grid in our electricity systems or the ubiquitous use of GPS in just about everything we use these days.