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Solar Superstorm: Brit Engineers Urge Governments to Prepare

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By Vittorio Hernandez | February 12, 2013 2:32 PM EST

Members of Britain's Royal Academy of Engineering urged governments to be prepared for solar superstorms to protect their citizens.

"The two challenges for government are the wide spectrum of technologies affected today and the emergence of unexpected vulnerabilities as technology evolves," TGDaily quoted Professor Paul Cannon, chair of the academy's working group on extreme solar weather.

Although such superstorms rarely happen, the impact could be wider this time. The last one, called the Carrington event, happened in 1859 and caused telegraph stations to catch fire.

If another superstorm would hit Earth, mobile communications would be affected although they could still operate without global navigational satellite systems timing for up to three days. However, GPS and Galileo systems would be out between one to three days because of disruption of radio transmission paths between the satellites and the ground which could also affect aircraft and ships.

Scientists estimate the likelihood of another solar superstorm happening once every 100 to 200 years. However, minor solar storms took place in 1956, 1972, 1989 and 2003 which damaged some electrical transformers in Canada's national grid.

To minimise the impact of solar storms, the British government organised space weather boards and is seeking solar and geospace experts, power engineers and risk analysis experts to join their efforts in a coherent way.

"Our message is: Don't panic, but do prepare - a solar superstorm will happen one day and we need to be ready for it," Mr Cannon said.

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