Tag Archives: Pete Riley

Chance of a Catastrophic Solar Storm Is 1 in 8; Would Take Down Power Grid, Food Transportation, Water Utilities, Financial Systems

Mac Slavo | SHTFplan | March 6 2012

According to a recent study published by Space Weather: The International Journal of Research and Applications, we have roughly a 12% chance of getting hit with a solar storm so powerful that it could take down the national power grid and yield catastrophic consequences for the general population.

Pete Riley, a senior scientist at Predictive Science in San Diego, is the author of the study which looks at the probability of the occurrence of extreme weather events:

Key Points on the probability of occurrence of extreme space weather events

  • Probability of a Carrington event occurring over next decade is ~12%
  • Space physics datasets often display a power-law distribution
  • Power-law distribution can be exploited to predict extreme events

By virtue of their rarity, extreme space weather events, such as the Carrington event of 1859, are difficult to study, their rates of occurrence are difficult to estimate, and prediction of a specific future event is virtually impossible.

Additionally, events may be extreme relative to one parameter but normal relative to others. In this study, we analyze several measures of the severity of space weather events (flare intensity, coronal mass ejection speeds)…

By showing that the frequency of occurrence scales as an inverse power of the severity of the event, and assuming that this relationship holds at higher magnitudes, we are able to estimate the probability that an event larger than some criteria will occur within a certain interval of time in the future. For example, the probability of another Carrington event occurring within the next decade is ∼12%.

The 1859 Carrington Event, as described by Wired Science, may have been a marvel to observers and caused some setbacks in the developing telegraph infrastructure at the time, but a similar occurrence today could be a global game changer:

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