The Magnetosphere, Power Grids and You

As if there isn’t enough to worry about. Well, astrophysics and associated phenomena is-what-it-is. We didn’t make the laws or the cycles of our solar system. The topic is of high interest and should be followed, the effects being devastating when they occur. Another possible problem in 2012-2016 period not being discussed much of anywhere:  The […]

A spectacular solar flare photographed by the ...
Is the sun our friend? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As if there isn’t enough to worry about. Well, astrophysics and associated phenomena is-what-it-is. We didn’t make the laws or the cycles of our solar system. The topic is of high interest and should be followed, the effects being devastating when they occur.

Another possible problem in 2012-2016 period not being discussed much of anywhere:  The changing magnetosphere and solar events.

A repeat of the 1859 ‘Carrington’ event has been warned about for years. I was first introduced to understanding this when I was detailed to the Air Force Palehua Solar facility at Kapolei on Oahu. The facility was run by the brother (an Air Force Captain) of a Navy CommanderI worked with at Wahiawa, Hi., NAVCAMSEASTPAC, on the other side of the island. He arranged the visits and had suggested our team spend some time understanding solar phenomena in conjunction with Electro-magnetic Pulse (EMP) effects on our SIGINTMASINT and COMINT systems.

After a ‘global radio blackout’ (GRB) event occurred in 1977, that went on from 30 seconds to 3 minutes depending on location, a group of us were detailed down to Palehua to learn more about solar events. It was the first time I heard the term Coronal Mass Ejection (CME).

The GRB event had gone largely unnoticed, except by US military communications, Intel and NSA units, because few others had the extent of global communications systems at that time. All our nets had time-stamping as circuits were logged down and back up, or went offline completely, so we were able to trace the event as starting in North Central Siberia and had spread globally in the northern hemisphere from there.

Since most commerical nets at the time were nowhere near as extensive they just viewed it as an unexplained temporary outage in certain network segments and systems. Also, most commercial systems of the time had little of the background research and analysis capability we had. Once our circuits came back online after a few minutes, they had little interest or capability to explore further. In some places it actually blew out detection circuits in equipment, especially sensitive receivers in certain bands.

At that point, there was also little widespread understanding of Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) and its effects outside of the scientific, military and Intel agencies. That would come later in the early 80s based on the unclassified research and analysis done in the 70s and the need to alert the commercial world to the dangers of EMP for the North American Telecommunications and European Infrastructures.

That elicited a whole lot of projects and programs to harden certain parts, if possible, in conjunction with the Cold War. By the 80s, EMP hardening had become a big deal going into the design of all major military facilities. However, it is difficult and expensive to harden most of the electrical grids.  With the proliferation of commercial and military wireless technologies, most such efforts to protect against large EMP and CME events will be found unable to prevent large-scale takedowns of both electrical grids and communications systems. And CME has very much taken a back seat in building any protection systems behind EMP.  The two phenomena have different characteristics in the design of protective systems.

At first, of course, it was thought the GRB was an unknown experiment the Soviets conducted. However, further analysis of surveillance of the region indicated no nuclear test events or facilities located anywhere near the area where our analysis pinpointed the event origination. So that was eliminated fairly quickly. That’s when the investigation turned to Solar activity and the Magnetosphere once all the data from solar observations was compiled.

Coincidentally, at that time, we were studying the effects of both EMP and other events which could take large segments of global RF and Satellite communications systems down. The first large-scale NSA/NRL-led project was code-named “APACHE.” We were right in the middle of conducting testing of the survivability through APACHE of our comms and classified nets in the Pacific and Indian Ocean when the event ocurred. So we had the means to study the event fairly well. I’ve never seen anything come public on these studies, except maybe indirectly, through the ongoing work of NASA and other agencies.

Understanding that, compared to the 1977 GRB, the events being discussed in the article provided above would be orders-of-magnitude worse, is sobering for what lies ahead.

Even though the next solar cycle prediction is relatively moderate, the problem is a weakened or rotating magnetosphere protecting us in the direction of the sun in conjunction with an increase in solar activity.  It is not a worry about a magnetic flip. That’s a low probability event.  And a weakened magnetosphere in and of itself is not necessarily a huge problem, except when in conjunction with an increase in solar activity.  Epecially the kind we may see in the next period peaking in May 2013. And there may be other geophysical consequences we don’t yet understand with regard to weather, earthquake and oceanic changes.

Regardless of the possible CME events and a weakened Magnetosphere should be factors (as reliability and economic design criteria) in increasing the speed at which national power grids are decentralized everywhere and replaced with more localized power generation and distribution to avoid mass impacts in the future.  Combined with obvious economic incentives and energy independence, decentralized power grids could well be one of the most important national security considerations moving forward. In addition, almost half of the power generated in North America is consumed as heat from existing centralized generation (~30%) and longlines transmission (~17%).

Mini- and Micro-nuclear technologies along with extensive advances in fuel cell technologies, such as the BloomBox are at the point of mass manufacture.  Reducing our energy consumption by almost half simply by decentralizing energy production for the grid would be enormously more efficient than any other single move.  It would vastly conserve more fossil energy consumption than wind or solar.  It requires no coercive government intervention or centralized planning.  It would accelerate the trend of electrically-powered vehicles without the use of large coal- and natural gas-fired plants.

In fact, decentralizing the grid would achieve most every goal of carbon reduction propounded by the global-warming loonies. Though that should be considered the lowest (if not a null) consideration, anytime popular (even if misguided) goals line-up with real-life economic and efficiency necessities that could be a plus. That is, as long as the move is to allow market replacement technologies instead of dictated “green ones.” Large, centralized and subsidized solar and wind-powered generation is no more viable from a design, efficiency and cost standpoint than coal or natural gas.

It should be obvious that we have much more important considerations to deal with and the need to shepard monetary resources much more carefully than we currently are. We are wasting huge sums of money on political and global Military adventurism and the “climate change” scam when the priorities of our our country and civilization should be much different. Combined with a failing global financial and monetary paradigm, the need to focus on the proper considerations couldn’t come at a worse time.

The political implications now and going forward of all this should be obvious. We don’t need any more legislative bills like “Cap and Trade” in Congress or bills in Colorado, such as HB10-1365 passed in the 2010 session.  Colorado’s HB10-1365 directs replacement of large coal-fired plants with large natural-gas fired generation plants. Politically trying to manipulate utility business, maintenance and capital expenditure models in any manner other than those provided by the free market are more than misguided. They can be dangerous.

As throughout all of history, many times the catastrophic failures and ultimate impacts to civilisation’s survival don’t come from the expected but instead from the completely unexpected. However, in hindsight the unexpected usually turns-out to be the most obvious if it had only been paid attention to. The titanic struggle we are engaged in is the conflict of the priorities of our currently poor leadership vs those of the People. Again, the WARBI Principle is in full flower.