An EMP event can be caused by a geomagnetic storm. These storms occur regularly and usually have effects at high northern latitudes; however, major geomagnetic storms can inflict significant damage on the ground in, and far beyond, the area where they occur. For example, in 1989, a severe geomagnetic storm caused the collapse of Quebec’s electricity transmission system, and the entire province suffered an electrical blackout. The effects of this storm in Canada were as far reaching as the United States, causing more than 200 power grid problems nationwide that day.

While the United States was able to barely sustain power during Quebec’s solar storm, a great geomagnetic storm, such as the 1859 Carrington effect, would have catastrophic consequences on our aging infrastructure. Scientists say that the Carrington Event is the largest solar storm in the last 500 years, and it is widely believed that storms of this magnitude are likely to occur every 100 years. According to the University of California at Berkeley, “A severe geomagnetic storm narrowly missed Earth in 2012 when a rapid succession of coronal mass ejections, the most intense eruptions on the sun, sent a pulse of magnetized plasma barreling into space and through Earth’s orbit.” Researchers at UC Berkeley added that had these solar flares happened just 9 days earlier, Earth would have been subject to a magnetic storm that would rival the Carrington event of 1859.

Reports conclude that a storm of this magnitude would cause unimaginable devastation to our social and economic order due to the storm’s impact on power grids, satellite communications and GPS systems.