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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 (opens in new tab).

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.

Darren Allan
Contributor

Darran has over 25 years of experience in digital and magazine publishing as a writer and editor. He's also an author, having co-written a novel published by Little, Brown (Hachette UK). He currently writes news, features and buying guides for TechRadar, and occasionally other Future websites such as T3 or Creative Bloq and he's a copy editor for TechRadar Pro. Darrran has written for a large number of tech and gaming websites/magazines in the past, including Web User and ComputerActive. He has also worked at IDG Media, having been the Editor of PC Games Solutions and the Deputy Editor of PC Home.