Solar Storms Now On Civil Emergencies Threat List Alongside Terrorism

The sun is a dangerous old thing. Even though we're about 150 million miles away, it can still burn your skin after a relatively short exposure time. So it's not surprising that a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), a massive solar flare which causes a burst of solar wind, can potentially trouble our planet.

In terms of technology, it could be potentially devastating, as you'll be aware if you saw the recent Horizon TV programme on space weather. One big CME hitting the Earth directly could overload our entire national grid, plunging the country (well, multiple countries) into darkness, taking down communications, the internet, totalling satellites, grounding planes... pretty much bringing daily life to a grinding halt.

So it's little wonder that the Cabinet Office has decided to include this threat to our technological infrastructure in the latest National Risk of Civil Emergencies list, the Guardian reports.

The solar black-out finds new bedfellows on that list including a potential terrorist attack, major scale coastal flooding and a flu pandemic.

What makes a CME disaster a particular danger at this current time is the fact that the sun is entering a period of intense solar activity, the most active point in its decade-long cycle.

The risk register notes: "Severe space weather can cause disruption to a range of technologies and infrastructure, including communications systems, electronic circuits and power grids."

"While storm impacts in the early- to mid-20th century appear relatively benign, dependency on technology vulnerable to space weather has pervaded most aspects of modern life, and therefore the disruptive consequences of a severe solar storm could be significant."

On the upside, you'll see a hell of a show of the Northern lights.