The Magnetosphere, or Earth’s protective shield, encompasses the whole of our planet and meets at both magnetic poles: the North and South Poles. This protective shield, which is also called a Magnetosheath, guards Earth against hazardous cosmic particles and solar radiation. As solar winds produced by the Sun reach Earth, the day-side portion of Earth’s Magnetosphere bow incoming solar wind particles in a deflective manner forcing them to meet on the night-side of Earth. This in turn creates the Magnetotail. However, during times of increased solar wind speed and density, such as those times produced by Solar Flares and Coronal Mass Ejections (CME), Plasma particles slip past the Magnetosphere on the night-side of Earth and create enhanced particle precipitation, also known as Geomagnetic Storms. This can be seen as these particles increase the Auroral Electrojet which produces even larger Auroral Ovals and stunning Aurora lights.
Although such an event sounds amazing, it can also be extremely dangerous. This is because the incoming particles have the ability of overcharging Earth’s electrical grid and creating mass power outages. Occasionally minor C-Class and M-Class Solar Flares may cause temporary power outages with the aid of many other factors but for the most part the electrical grid has stood up well against such events. However, this may change in future decades as experts and independent researchers are seeing signs of a weakening Magnetosphere.
The Magnetosphere, which is created by the spinning effect of Earth’s electrically-conductive core, is said to take hundreds of thousands of years to weaken which only occurs due to a flip in the North and South Poles. This occurrence, which is a routine occurrence and is called a Magnetic Reversal, can be observed by a literal shift in the magnetic North. Despite this understanding the movement of the North Magnetic Pole has been significantly larger than average leading experts to conclude that the shift is accelerating. In fact, in 2010 it was recorded to be accelerating towards Russia at a speed of 40 miles per year. Already various airports have had to renumber runways in order to compensate for the magnetic shift as to not confuse pilots during take-off and landing.
Due to the accelerated shift experts have concluded that the current state of the Magnetosphere has weakened by 10 percent. This means that a Solar Flare or Coronal Mass Ejection produced by the Sun may have a more damaging effect on Earth’s electrical grid than previously predicted. This also means that a large Coronal Mass Ejection or the feared “Solar Kill Shot” may destroy Earth’s electrical grid for upwards of a decade and cost a total of $3 trillion in damage. Such an event could have a devastating effect on human way of life as the dependence upon the electrical grid is much more significant than the last recorded Solar Kill Shot which occurred in 1859 known as the Carrington Event.
Nevertheless it is important to always be prepared for and aware of such a possibility. Having an emergency kit or a disaster preparedness kit always stocked with fresh supplies will help during the first few weeks of a power outage. As well as organizing locally amongst neighborhoods and communities will ensure the safety and livelihood of friends and family.
“Compass Direction, True North Parting Ways.” By Irene Klotz
“How Earth’s Magnetic Field Would Look from Space.” By OurAmazingPlanet Staff. Credit: Gred Shirah and Ted Bridgman. NASA Visualization Studio
“Impacts of Severe Space Weather on the Electrical Grid.” Contact: Dan McMorrow