This Solar Storm could Completely Knock out India’s internet! Myth or truth?
Table Of Contents
- 1What is a Solar Storm?
- 2Will it Knockout Internet in India?
- 3How to Prevent Internet Shut Down from this?
An Indian-origin researcher has written a paper warning of an “Internet apocalypse” brought on by none other than our own sun. A solar storm or superstorm, which can send highly magnetised particles floating in space, is the phenomenon to be concerned about. Everything from electrical grids to communication equipment is at risk if the Earth is in the direct path of such particles. And, knowing how the sun behaves, such an occurrence may be on the way.
What is a Solar Storm?
A solar storm, also known as a Coronal Mass Ejection, is the ejection of highly magnetised particles from the sun. These particles can travel at speeds of several million kilometres per hour and take between 13 hours to five days to reach Earth. The atmosphere of the Earth shields us, humans, from these particles. However, the particles can interact with the magnetic field of our planet, causing intense electric currents on the surface and affecting man-made objects.
The first solar storm was observed in 1859, and it took around 17 hours to reach Earth. The telegraph network was disrupted, and several operators suffered electric shocks as a result. In 1921, a solar storm wreaked havoc on New York’s telegraph and railroad networks. While in 1989, another small-scale storm knocked out the power grid in Quebec, Canada.
According to 2013 research, if a solar storm equal to the one that slammed the US in 1859 struck now; 20-40 million people would be without power for 1-2 years, with a total economic cost of $0.6-2.6 trillion.
Will it Knockout Internet in India?
Longer submarine cables may be more vulnerable to dangers, Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi says, the author of the paper. The bulk of cables connecting India would be unharmed; according to modelling studies conducted to determine how connectivity will be affected on a national scale. “Even under the high-failure scenario, some international connectivity remains (e.g., India to Singapore, Middle East, etc.). Unlike in China, the key cities of Mumbai and Chennai do not lose connectivity even with high failures,” the paper adds.
How to Prevent Internet Shut Down from this?
According to Jyothi, the cloud of magnetised particles can take anywhere from 13 hours to five days to reach Earth. This implies that if an eruption is identified in time, steps can be taken to safeguard equipment and infrastructure.
When it comes to the Internet, Jyothi notes that “similar to power grids, powering off is the easiest solution for equipment damage prevention”. However, she adds that this “only provides limited protection since GIC can flow through a powered-off cable.”
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