Natural Sources of EMP-EMP Caused by Geomagnetic Storm

Geomagnetic storms are regularly occurring events that mostly affect high northern latitudes, but they can cause major damages like how Canada was subjected to their forces in the 1980s. Massive storms like the 1859 Carrington effect can be incredibly destructive to the modern infrastructures.

Major geomagnetic storms are expected to occur once in every 100 years. Sometimes, energy-charged plasma erupts from the sun’s surface along with energy waves. They travel as a solar wind in space and often hit the atmosphere of planet earth, generating geomagnetic storms.

Now, the solar winds of the large storms interfere with the earth’s magnetic properties and alter the magnetic field. This results in the induction of energy currents in metallic conductors like rails and wires.

The transformers in power grids are most vulnerable to damage as the wire copper windings are at the risk of melting down due to increased energy caused by EMP.

Moreover, the US Electric Grid uses about 300 vital transformers in its primary segments. There aren’t enough spares, and replacing them can take years under normal circumstances. Since the US doesn’t manufacture them, a replacement can take even longer.

A Nasa funded report that’s been issued by the NAS in 2008 aims to advise on the extent of destruction caused by geomagnetic storms and such. Most modern infrastructures like water and sewage treatment, utility station controls, food distribution systems, etc., rely heavily on electricity.

As stated in the NAS report, within just 90 seconds, the supply of electricity to major infrastructures and 130 million can come to an abrupt end. The pumping of water will stop, the electric vehicles will run out of charge, and the supply of gas through electric pumps will end. Backup generators will run until they run out of fuel.

Furthermore, nuclear plants will be forced to shut down. Coal plants will sustain for 30 days with their reserved supplies if the transportation system comes to a halt. Hospitals will be good for 72 hours, but then their services will stop. There will be a massive shortage of foods as refrigeration and heating won’t be possible.

Since transformer hubs aren’t repairable, they must be replaced. However, replacing them can take over a year. The spare transformers are too few in number, and installing them can take weeks with skilled workers. Even those will be used up almost in no time.  

Paul Kintner, an expert plasma physicist of Cornell University, says that a Carrington event in the modern day can be extremely devastating, ten times more than the hurricane Katrina.

The NAS report estimates that recovering from a monstrous geomagnetic storm will take 4 to 5 hours, and the overall loss can be as high as $2 trillion. Hurricane Katrina’s destructive impact seems meager compared to that which was reported to be $80 to $125 billion.

  • Updated December 14, 2020
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