About 100 years ago, on May 15, 1921, they broke out multiple fires in electricity and telegraph control rooms in different parts of the world, including the USA and the United Kingdom. In both New York and Sweden, fires started from equipment in control rooms and spread to buildings, causing extensive damage.
Similar reports have emerged from around the world, including India, the United Kingdom and New Zealand on disturbances in electrical and telegraph equipment. These incidents were due to magnetic fields created on Earth by a solar super-storm. One of the biggest to hit the planet.
See also: The asteroid Ryugu is finally visible
"The effects concerned interference with radiocommunications, telegraphs and telephone systems used in 1921", Says the Independent Jeffrey Love, geophysicist at Geomagnetism Program of the US Government Geological Survey (USGS).
The solar super-storm is one space weather phenomenon, which if it affects the Earth today, can cause more damage, according to Love.
"Looking back at that time, anything related to electricity was not as important in 1921 as it is today.", says.
Scientists have understood for many years how these solar storms occur and how they cause disturbances in the electricity and communication networks. But the The potential impact of this phenomenon today is not fully understood.
Solar storms are caused when the sun emits a wave of electrically conductive plasma, in what is called coronal mass ejection (CME).
When CMEs head towards Earth, they can travel at very high speeds of about 2000 km per second, reaching Earth in a few days.
Since plasma in CMEs is electrically conductive, interacts with the Earth's magnetic field, bringing current to the ionosphere. This in turn produces a magnetic field through the principle of electromagnetism.
This process results in creation electric fields on the Earth's electrically conductive surface, sending electricity through different types of rocks in the crust, which have different capacities to carry electricity.
Eventually, this current ends up affecting the electrical networks and causing short circuit. Since the networks are related to the control and management of currents and are designed for alternating current, this sudden current flow causes problems.
Experts say a solar super-storm can be special catastrophic for transformers in the electricity network, as it can overheat them and interrupt their operation due to the unwanted current flow.
Transformers rely on current balance as voltages change - and if there is no balance, overheating can occur which interrupts their operation.
"So a black out can be done, but a quick reset can be made. There will be damage but it will not be very big damage", he says Mike Hapgood, his head Space Environment Impacts Expert Group (SEIEG) in the United Kingdom.
Citing the example of a moderate solar storm that struck the Earth in 1989, Hapgood said power outages in one area of Canada were resolved in about nine hours.
"People now know how to fix it. And I would not expect anything extended. While some fear that it will take years to solve the problem, I do not think many people, especially engineers, really believe it.", Says Dr. Hapgood.
However, scientists also say that satellite navigation systems could be significantly affected by a solar super-storm. Power outages for several days could occur. In some places, the systems may work and in others they may not.
In addition, experts are not sure to what extent Global Internet connectivity could be affected by a solar storm.
According to a recent study, the durability of submarine cables Internet in such space weather phenomena has not been particularly tested.
Research predicts that long-distance fiber-optic lines and submarine cables, which are a vital part of the global internet infrastructure, are vulnerable to this phenomenon.
Dr Love also believes that long-distance communication cables could be particularly vulnerable due to their design.
However, Not all experts agree that the effects on the Internet system could be just as devastating.
Dr Hapgood argues that submarine cables are by nature less conductive and their high resistance would make them less vulnerable to such a phenomenon.
Due to the high resistance of submarine internet cables to the flow of geomagnetically induced currents (GIC) from solar storms, he believes that it will most likely not cause any disruption to the global Internet connection.
Other experts, such as Dibyendu Nandi, suggest that these theoretical predictions should be scientifically tested. "Submarine cables may be comparatively better, but the impact of solar storms on them"must be fully understood", Since they are the backbone of the global internet infrastructure.
Dr. Nandi has already suggested a way for an experiment, which could show how they react underwater cables in conditions similar to those caused by a solar super-storm, while he and other experts believe that the impact also depends on how strong a solar storm can be.
While long-distance cables and communications satellites, which are an integral part of the global internet infrastructure, could be vulnerable to CMEs, experts suggest that there are some solutions for temporary connectivity, without this meaning that there will be no problem and that their use will be immediate.
Experts do not seem to agree on the impact of a solar storm on electricity and telecommunications networks. They agree, however, that there are not yet complete plans for such a space weather phenomenon.
An American project known as SWORM, organized through the White House, brings together different federal agencies to address the global dangers of space.
"They are not only worried about the electricity grid, but also about the loss of communication satellites, as we may lose some of the satellites and GPS due to solar storms.", Said Dr. Love.
The biggest problem, according to Dr Hapgood, is combining all the known information to find an effective action plan.
Source: The Independent