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Solar Storm Blackouts Can Cost US$40B Every Day

First Posted: Jan 23, 2017 03:20 AM EST
Solar Storm-Induced Blackout
A new study found that solar storm-induced blackouts could set back the U.S. economy by more than $40 billion every day.
(Photo : ShantiUniverse/YouTube screenshot)

Electricity blackouts induced by solar storms could cost the U.S. economy more than $40 billion daily, a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Cambridge and University of Cape Town has found out. Furthermore, the most extreme of blackouts affect nearly 66 percent of the population in the U.S.

The study published in Space Weather has implied that a sufficiently strong solar storms can throw the American economy into a turmoil impacting the transformers needed for electricity transmission throughout the country's power grids. The daily economic cost could shoot up to tens of billions of dollars, depending on the impact of the solar blast. Additionally, more than half of the losses would be incurred from indirect costs beyond immediately stricken areas.

"On average, the direct economic cost incurred from disruption to electricity represents only 49 per cent of the total potential macroeconomic cost," the study noted. According to an Economic Times report, the daily domestic economic loss could be to the tune of $41.5 billion, with an added $7 billion loss via the international supply chain. The study has found that the most affected sector due to solar storm-induced blackouts is manufacturing, with government, finance and insurance, and property falling next in line.

According to some researchers, outages due to solar storms would last only hours or a few days because electrical collapse of the transmission system would protect the facilities that generate electricity. Others believe that solar storm-induced knockouts could last weeks or months because those transmission networks could actually be destroyed and need replacement.

Incidentally, solar storms are caused by explosive solar activity like flares and coronal mass ejections that blast highly energetic and electrically charged particles into space. 

Power solar storms have the potential to create havoc on satellites and Earth-bound technologies, by disrupting radio transmissions as well as resulting in transformer blowouts and blackouts. The high-tech and modern civilization is exceedingly vulnerable to the negative impacts of solar storms as they can knock out everything from an entire satellite fleet to handheld gadgets.

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