Superflare may cause $40-billion-worth damage to US economy daily

The emergence of a super-powerful solar flare and a geomagnetic storm that it may entail will cost the US economy $40 billion every day after the disaster.

Explosive releases of energy on the sun in the form of visible light, heat and X-rays may at times occur in the form of so-called superflares. Extra powerful solar flares break through the magnetic shield of the Earth, disrupting the work of radio and communication systems, satellites etc. Thus, a superflare in 1989 deprived Canada of much of its power grids, causing the damage of 13.2 million dollars.

British astronomers attempted to find out how extreme "space weather" may affect the performance of various sectors of the US economy, including industry and the work of governmental and financial agencies. Edward Outon of the University of Cambridge and his colleagues created a computer model of how solar flares may affect the economy of the United States.

According to Space Weather magazine, the destruction of electricity networks will not be the only and the main problem that superflares may cause the United States. Most of the damage will be associated with direct and indirect destruction of infrastructure.

According to the researchers, industrial enterprises will suffer most because of irregularities in the work of computer networks and satellite communications. A solar flare will also affect the work of the US government, financial and insurance companies.

Should the power of the superflare be comparable to the Carrington Event (the most powerful superflare ever recorded that occurred in 1859), the daily damage caused to the US economy would be around $40 billion and about $7 billion for international trading partners. These numbers account for 100 percent USA's daily GDP. According to the scientists, a superflare may affect a half of the country's area and 66% of its population.

A solar flare is a phenomenon that strikes imagination. Generally, a solar flare lasts only for a few minutes, but it embraces all layers of the atmosphere of the star. A solar flare releases the amount of energy equivalent to many billions of megatons of TNT.

Such colossal emissions of power show a direct impact on life on Earth, including man-made creations, such as sensitive electronic equipment, orbiters, global navigation systems, the International Space Station, communication satellites, etc. Extra powerful flares can show destructive influence on earthly infrastructure too.

Earlier, European scientists at the University of Aarhus and the International College from Denmark, Belgium, China and Italy warned of a possible solar superflare that may destroy life on Earth almost entirely.

The scientists observed the activity of 5,648 Sun-like stars, 48 of which were periodically producing superflares. The magnetic field of at least four of the observed stars (KIC 8493735, KIC 9025370, KIC 8552540 and KIC 8396230) was almost identical, or slightly less active than that of the sun.

Four of the stars that the scientists were studying through Kepler and LAMOST telescopes would emit up to one trillion of megatons of TNT in just a few minutes.

On the basis of their study, the scientists concluded that the nature of solar flares and superflares on other stars is most likely identical. At the same time, the power of superflares of the observed stars exceeded solar flares by tens of thousands of times.


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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov