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MorningSong
16th August 2010, 16:42
A new Solar Cycle Refuels Concerns Over Impact of Geomagnetic Storms


August 05, 2010 | BestWire Services

Imagine a blackout that plunges entire regions into darkness and cripples the flow of power for days and weeks on end, if not months.

Now drill deeper and contemplate the nearly immediate and prolonged loss of potable water for city populations, the subsequent risk to perishable food supplies and the challenges for hospitals, sewer plants and other infrastructure.

In the eyes of those who monitor solar storm activity and space weather, such a premise may not be limited to Hollywood disaster flicks.

Eruptions from the sun's surface yield electromagnetic currents that can penetrate the Earth's atmosphere. The potential for a geomagnetic storm to wreak havoc on industry, particularly in the delivery of bulk power, has some risk experts looking to the stars.

"We're talking about something here that would put at risk millions of lives, and would probably cost in the neighborhood of several trillions dollars per year in impacts to the economy," said John Kappenman, a consultant for Metatech Corp., a Los Angeles-area company whose scientists and engineers monitor explosive bursts from the sun's energy field.

The company also provides customized analysis of government-generated space weather forecasts for its clients.

Among the industries on the front line of exposure are power distributors, telecommunications and satellite companies as well as the aviation sector.

Peak Activity

The sun regularly goes through an 11-year solar cycle in which the presence of solar storm activity and sunspots ebbs and flows. A panel coordinated through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center estimates that the last solar cycle ended in December 2008. The current one, Solar Cycle 24, "will be below average in intensity" with peak solar activity expected to occur in May 2013, according to the panel.

Solar storms, fueled by proton flares that snap free of the sun's ever-changing surface, are far from a new phenomenon. But some experts believe the potential of such events to overwhelm electric grids and cripple transformers has yet to be fully realized.

A history of solar storms, maintained on NASA astronomer Dr. Sten Odenwald's website, notes that one of the greatest events happened in 1859 and "caused an almost complete shutdown of the U.S. telegraph system." Yet that storm occurred more than two decades before Thomas A. Edison successfully demonstrated the light bulb, ushering in the electricity industry.

Given the world's reliance on electricity, the development of the global economy and Internet commerce, the impact of a widespread solar storm event could have far-reaching economic consequences.

Past Lesson

When a geomagnetically induced current shut down Quebec's power grid in March 1989, 5 million people had no electricity for nine hours--the result of a fast-moving chain of events that disabled nearly the entire province's power system in just 92 seconds.

A joint report on the episode by the North American Electric Reliability Corp. and the U.S. Department of Energy said the event caused no additional outages as a direct result. But "roughly 200 significant anomalies were experienced across the bulk power system over the next 24 hours as the storm extended south into the New England, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest U.S. and Pacific Northwest," the report stated.

The direct cost of the outage was $2 billion, according to a 2008 NASA-funded study done in conjunction with the National Academy of Sciences. While this event did not occur at the height of a Canadian winter, it has helped the power industry gain insight into the vulnerabilities that exist.

The power industry has taken steps in response to the 1989 Quebec blackout, establishing early-warning systems that provide geomagnetic storm alerts and the status of solar activity based on space weather predictions from NOAA.

The power-generating industry has had "to deal with it firsthand," said A.V. Riswadkar, product liability director for Zurich Services Corp. "Because of that, they are starting to think about mitigation measures and response protocol. It's still in its infancy and a lot of work still needs to be done."

Zurich North America has tried to increase awareness within the risk management community to potential exposures. The effort follows a trajectory set at the government level by the EMP Commission, which Congress established in 2001 to assess the threat of electromagnetic pulse attacks, including deliberate attacks. The National Academy of Sciences study also analyzed the societal and economic impacts.

'Beyond Insurance'

Armand Fernandez, Zurich Services Corp.'s chief risk engineering officer, said the issue is fairly new to the insurance industry, although other affected industries have developed mitigation strategies as they became aware of the issue. Zurich is trying to spur the conversation along, hoping to see more companies place it at the top of their respective agendas.

"The issue is, it could be such a mega-event, and it would be beyond insurance," Fernandez said. "So it really takes a lot of understanding and thinking through the catastrophic scenarios."

Zurich's effort includes a 10-page analysis published in April 2010 that identified exposures for varying industries. One key issue involves the challenge of replacing damaged transformers that cost upward of $10 million apiece and require significant lead time to build. Experts believe individual transformers can be retrofitted as a defensive measure, but the "current grid system is not designed for any large-scale protection," according to the Zurich report.

While the March 1989 event had been considered the worst-case scenario benchmark, Kappenman defers to an event known as the "Great Storm of 1921." He said that storm's intensity level was 10 times greater than the 1989 Quebec storm. He modeled the 1921 conditions against a modern-day power grid that contains 200,000 miles of transmission lines. The financial impact of such a present-day event would be between $1 trillion and $2 trillion in the first year alone.

"But we also recognized that recovery could take many years, maybe a four- to 10-year span," Kappenman said.

A bill pending in Congress would step up the federal effort to protect the nation's power grid. The Grid Reliability and Infrastructure Defense Act would empower the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to "harden" the nation's power grid against both cyber attacks and geomagnetic storm activity.

"I think we're still at a point of just trying to raise awareness within the electric utility business that they have a huge vulnerability, and trying to find ways to reduce that," Kappenman said.

(By Al Slavin, senior associate editor, BestWeek)

http://insurancenewsnet.com/article.aspx?id=214760&type=newswires

Decibellistics
16th August 2010, 21:55
lol, Insurance.

Well, I wouldn't necessarily say it's a bad effort, though they want to have some money I assume, and I wonder whether the bill in congress will mandate insurance for the companies involved. That's really the only problem, also, if an ejection occurs, an ejection occurs.....unless they are insuring that the electromagnetic shield around Earth will stay intact.....I feel it is a lost cause.

Thank you for the post, I'm glad people are making an effort to raise awareness in the world. I'm glad I learned about the solar cycle when I did cause ever since, to me, it's the most likely.........didn't ontario and new york's grids go down in 2001 due to a minor ejection.....

jaybee
17th August 2010, 19:15
lol, Insurance.
..

Mmmmmmm would 'geomagnetic storm' come under 'Act of God'...don't know if I'm remembering right...but don't insurers have this as an opt out clause...like 'war' ?

Anyway...Morningsong...this thread made me think of this from the Camelot site..back in
March/April 2009.....

http://projectcamelot.org/electrical_engineer.html



Hello B & K

My husband is an electrical engineer for a national power company. He has just been told that they are expecting an event in the next 3-4 years that will render every transformer in the world useless. They are desperately trying to find a solution to the problem. If they don't, the entire global electrical system will go down. I know this fits in with some of your research. Have you heard about this?

etc etc


:eek:

Beth
17th August 2010, 19:23
Mmmmmmm would 'geomagnetic storm' come under 'Act of God'...don't know if I'm remembering right...but don't insurers have this as an opt out clause...like 'war' ?


Yep, most policies contain those clauses. Also most insurance does not cover flooding or damage from outside water.

jaybee
17th August 2010, 19:48
Yep, most policies contain those clauses. Also most insurance does not cover flooding or damage from outside water.

Ta....well they have the CME and speculated pole-shift covered.... lol.

On the subject of insurance...I recently took out 'life-insurance'......just a 10 a month thing to pay for my funeral...nothing too expensive.
The Post Office (in the UK) caught me on a weak moment.....but I really don't know whether to cancel it.... there's nothing like hard-cash
to sharpen up the senses...
Like...do I really think that the financial systems will still be in action in 2? 5? 10? 20? years. I'm wondering if it's a waste of money. I'm only
doing it...thinking of my daughter and her finances...should I pop my clogs.
It's a weird one.....that...in planning for my own funeral...I'm giving a vote of confidence to our collective survival..... if you get me...? :confused:

MorningSong
17th August 2010, 21:27
Hey guys! Yeah, Jaybee, I always have my nose pointed up into space, as you might have noticed.... I definately remember the electrician's wife on Camelot.

And I did find it interesting that the insurance companies were contemplating on how to deal with a Solar storm and its consequences.

Yes, I would think that they would try to get out of payment for the "Act of God" clause.

I only have "accident/death" insurance here in Italy since the medical is nationalized. Since I've broken my ankle in June and am still recouperating, I'll see if they pay up in the end or not.

jaybee
17th August 2010, 21:36
Morningsong...Hope you get your money......poor you, breaking your ankle....

Re insurance and a 'geomagnetic storm' ....it all goes into the circumstancial evidence melting pot, eh... nice find.....:cool:

Fredkc
17th August 2010, 22:35
People are forever "looking within", looking to the skies, or looking to some church for proof of God.

What a monumental waste of time!

All you have to do is look to the nearest insurance company.

They provide proof that even holds up in court, on a daily basis. ;)

Fred

Fredkc
17th August 2010, 22:57
JayBee;
The Post Office (in the UK) caught me on a weak moment.....but I really don't know whether to cancel it.... there's nothing like hard-cash to sharpen up the senses...
Like...do I really think that the financial systems will still be in action in 2? 5? 10? 20? years. I'm wondering if it's a waste of money.

You forgot one ;)

Whose going to be there to deliver the mailed check?
http://fredsitelive.com/fun/rofl.gif

Fred

jaybee
18th August 2010, 16:10
I don't think you're taking my dilema seriously Fred......:p:rolleyes:

Perhaps I should cancel the life insurance until the end of 2013? Then start it again.....if we still have something resembling a stable society?

Watchathink? :flame:

Hedge my bets....? LOL.

Fredkc
18th August 2010, 16:54
Well, I was responding seriously, tho in a humorous way.

But for some amateur financial advice, I'd suggest this:
What will you spend in the next 3 years in premiums vs. what will you spend in possibly higher premiums if you try to get the same coverage then?
IS the difference worth the "bet" that you will not survive some other accident, in the years 2010-2013?

I agree they're tough questions.
Perhaps a bit cold, but when all else fails, ask the beneficiary?

I do wish you luck with it, though,
Fred

jaybee
19th August 2010, 12:27
Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Fred.......

I feel a bit silly now about bringing my mini-mini-dilema up..... but I DID think about 'is life insurance worth bothering with?'

I've decided to carry on with the 10 a month.... I mean...if the financial system crashes, (or worse) what use is money going to be anyway?

But if everything stays more or less ok (ish) then this is something I can do for my daughter.

Cheers!

Steven
19th August 2010, 12:55
Hi everyone,

Quotes: 'When a geomagnetically induced current shut down Quebec's power grid in March 1989, 5 million people had no electricity for nine hours--the result of a fast-moving chain of events that disabled nearly the entire province's power system in just 92 seconds.'

I work for Hydro-Quebec and can tell you that the reason why this EMP has shut down the elctrical network wasn't because power transformer coils were burnt, it is ridiculous, but rather that the line protection had opened up everywhere where the EMP hit the Earth. The inteligent protection are like computors, made of electronic part, working with low voltage DC power and these are fragile to EMP. So, by default, when a protection is disable for any reason, it opens up the line. The delay was due that some of the protection were totally broken.

Since then, measure has been taken to shield these electronic protections against EMP, at least here at H-Q. The best protection line against these EMP are the old electromagnetic protection relay. Nasa is expecting another EMP in somewhere in june 2013, http://solarscience.msfc.nasa.gov/predict.shtml that is from where all these predictions comes from. Some says it will be has strong as it was in 1859. Who knows?

Now, to say that coils from power transformer will burn caused by an EMP is rather ridiculous in my knowledge. If an EMP can burn a coil from a power transformer, what would be the sate of life on Earth? If it ever happen, we wouldn't need electricity anymore anyway.

Namaste, Steven