In this month’s issue of Physics World, Ashley Dale from the University of Bristol warns of the “catastrophic” and “long-lasting” impacts of “solar super-storms” and the dangers we face if the threat continues to go unnoticed.
Dale, who was a member of an international task force – dubbed SolarMAX – set up to identify the risks of a solar storm and how its impact could be minimized, explains how it is only a matter of time before an exceptionally violent solar storm is propelled towards Earth. Such a storm would wreak havoc with our communication systems and power supplies, crippling vital services such as transport, sanitation and medicine.
"Without power, people would struggle to fuel their cars at petrol stations, get money from cash dispensers or pay online. Water and sewage systems would be affected too, meaning that health epidemics in urbanized areas would quickly take a grip, with diseases we thought we had left behind centuries ago soon returning," Dale writes.