What Would Happen If a Solar Storm Hit Earth?

Contrary to its serene appearance from earth, the sun is a hub of intense activity. The fiery dynamic star at the center of our solar system frequently releases powerful bursts of energy and charged particles, known as solar storms. So, what would happen if a particularly strong solar storm hit the earth? In February 2011, a solar storm interrupted GPS signals for several minutes, which could potentially have spelled disaster for commercial airplanes or ships relying on GPS to land or dock during that time. Over a decade later, in April 2023, a powerful solar event sent a fast-moving burst of plasma toward earth, causing a severe geomagnetic storm two days later. The storm disrupted power, communication systems, and satellite functions. It also created brilliant auroras. If a major solar flare were to hit earth today, it would emit x-rays and ultraviolet light, which would interfere with electronics, radio, and satellite signals. It would also cause a solar radiation storm, which could potentially be deadly to astronauts not fully equipped with protective gear and unprotected by the earth’s atmosphere. Finally, a cloud of charged particles would decommission everything from cellphones and computers to automobiles and airplanes. Cities would lose power for weeks, potentially months, and many activities necessary to daily life would no longer be possible. Take a trip to refuel at a gas station. Simply using a debit or credit card to pay for a few gallons of gas requires a satellite transaction, and creating one would no longer be possible. The potential consequences of a large-scale solar flare hitting the earth has scientists scrambling to develop an early warning system and new solar flare detection methods. Someday, we might have solar flare warnings, just like we have tornado and hurricane warnings today.