Solar Storm Can Stop Internet, Mobile For Months: How ‘Internet Apocalypse’ Will Disrupt Our Lives

The last time such a solar storm occurred was in 1859, followed by in 1921.
The last time such a solar storm occurred was in 1859, followed by in 1921.

In an event that occurs only once every century, what is known as an extreme ‘solar storm’ could be headed our way, which as per study reports could interfere with the electrical grids and result in an internet blackout for prolonged periods.

Not just that, the effects of the anticipated solar storm could also result in damaging the global supply chains, transportations and GPS access, besides internet connection.

The Sun emits electromagnetic particles towards the Earth, which are deviated towards the planet’s poles due to its magnetic shield. These EM particles emitted by the Sun are termed as solar winds that transform into a super solar storm once in 100 years.

The last time these solar storms occurred were in 1859 and 1921.

Study Reports About Probable Internet Apocalypse

A study presented by Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi of the University of California, Irvine, called the ‘Solar Superstorms: Planning for an Internet Apocalypse’ at the SIGCOMM 2021 data communication conference on Thursday, states the examination of a fast-moving solar storm and its effect, which could result in the global internet outage.

Abdu Jyothi underlines in her research report that modern technological advancement coincided with a period of weak solar activity and the Sun is expected to become more active in the near future.

The scenario, if occurred, could result in internet outages for hours or days, or even weeks and months.

Scientists believe that the probability of extreme space weather impacting the Earth directly is between 1.6 to 12% in the next decade.

However, there’s a positive take in this scenario too.

Jyothi’s report states that optical fibres are comparatively immune to any geomagnetically induced current interferences, which is not the case for long undersea cables.

It so happens that the undersea cables connect continents, which means if a solar storm occurs, it could hit the long undersea cables and could cut the connectivity between countries, on a large scale.

On the other hand, as optical fibres are used in the regional internet infrastructure and are grounded at short distances, the chances of local infrastructure being left intact despite the solar storm, is a possibility.

Given how feeble the world was at keeping pace with the Covid-19 pandemic due to unpreparedness, Jyothi expresses her worries about the world’s current reliance on the internet, while speaking with the Wired.

She states, “What really got me thinking about this is that with the pandemic we saw how unprepared the world was. There was no protocol to deal with it effectively, and it’s the same with internet resilience. Our infrastructure is not prepared for a large-scale solar event. We have very limited understanding of what the extent of the damage would be.”

For a severe solar storm, the Earth will roughly have only about a 13-hour period to prepare, adds Abdu Jyothi. 

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