Solar Flare Almost Ended Modern Life As We Know It: VIDEO

Extreme Solar Storm

For all of the end times prognostication that occurred in 2012, it turns out that modern life actually was almost completely destroyed that year, thanks to an "extreme solar storm" that sent plasma clouds hurtling from the sun at a rate of 3,000 km/s. Described as a "Carrington event", named after English astronomer Richard Carrington who observed a similar storm in 1859, the storm would have hit Earth had it happened only a week sooner, frying all electronics across the globe and leaving an impact that we would still be feeling today. NASA estimates the destruction would have cost $2 trillion.

The soothsayers and doom prophets would have been utterly insufferable.

You can watch a NASA report on the storm that almost resulted in an R.E.M. song


  1. Princely says

    This was addressed by Neil deGrasse Tyson last Friday on Bill Maher’s ‘Real Time’. Tyson scoffed about it and essentially said we’re bombarded yearly by sun plasma and this wasn’t a close call. He stated that, yes, communication satellites would have been damaged, but it wouldn’t have been a life-ending catastrophe. He finished by saying this is like crossing a street and hearing a truck pass by once you’re on the other side of the street. You don’t turn around, clutch your pearls and exclaim, ‘That truck almost hit me!’ No, you go on with your day and don’t fret about it. WAY more sensible than panicking about the ways of the universe. There is PLENTY more to worry about right there in your town.

  2. opj says

    actually rather than fighting each other we should be more worried about these things. Global warming etc present far more danger to us as a species in the big picture, sadly our own infighting will debilitate us before these events do or perhaps lead us to fight even more with each other if they occur. We look to be fall the fate of Easter Island doomed in the name of social stability and international warfare to kill off each other or find a way to destroy our own habitat.

  3. ratbastard says

    Earthhas been hit many times by space debris that has had enormous consequences. The odds are such events will happen again. Reminds of a 60s scifi TV show episode I watched a long time ago (think it was outer limits, not sure) where a boy could predict the future. The show ended with the biy telling a women who was upset about some passing trivial thing that she shouldn’t worry because next week the world is going to end after being hit by a meteror or astroid. The woman started to cry, and the boy tells her she has nothing to worry about, it will happen so fast she won’t feel a thing.

  4. UFFDA says

    Nothing in our solar system or the Universe is going to render humanity extinct. We’re far too significant and meaningful, beyond the possibility of full comprehension. Human consciousness, even more than life, is no random accident. It is every bit as sensational as the Universe itself and we bear it forward.

    Of course there will be bumps along the way, but not to worry.

  5. tominsf says

    Princely, OPJ – I saw this the other day and didn’t bother to research it, but given the tabloid mentality that seems to have taken over (parts of) NASA lately, it doesn’t surprise me that this was yet another exaggeration. NASA lately has seemed hell bent on (for instance) convincing us that we’re on the verge of finding and communicating with extraterrestrial intelligence. They’re eventually going to cry wolf one to many times.

    And yes, we desperately need to address the real problems we have right here on earth, and not be distracted by stuff that has a low probability of happening. Of course dealing with human overpopulation, which is at the root of our problems, is probably a lost cause at this point.

    Meanwhile, I’m more or less aware of the potential problem here, having spent some of my career designing hardened electronics that would survive a nuclear EMP – electromagnetic pulse – which is a similar risk. A solar flare event certainly isn’t impossible. It just seems less likely than nuclear war.

  6. Wirrrn says

    It would have done a number on our electronics, but not affected our biology. Our magnetosphere, Van Allen Belt and atmosphere protect us from solar radiation, and we are often bathed in solar plasma from flares.

  7. enough already says

    Mother Nature, red of tooth and claw always balances her books.
    She gave us over-developed brains. To balance, she took away our ability to reason and consider stochastic events.
    Sooner or later it will catch up with us.

    (Version for the ‘atheists': Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make proud.)

  8. BrokebackBob says

    Neil deGrasse Tyson, once a respected scientist is not a fame whore. His whole “performance” on Real Time was utterly rehearsed. He tries to come off as a better scientist than he really is. But he is now “The Authority” since he hosts COSMOS 2, the caesarian rebirth of the Carl Sagan classic. He shames Carl’s legacy every time he speaks. I am no loony creationist but as a seeker of truth I am always dismayed by people like Neil who are bedazzled and swallowed by the media attention and adoration of the masses. So sad and yet so dangerous. One authority is always a bad thing as Hitler demonstrated.

  9. BrokebackBob says

    I meant to say “now a fame whore” in previous post. There are blogs that allow editing touch-ups after posting, why not this one Andy?

  10. simon says

    The human species is not going to last forever since the sun will eventually burn out. As Bertrand Russell said:
    “That man is the product of causes that had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins- all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand.
    “Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding dispair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”

  11. Randy says

    Princely, NdT is not a god. NASA has no reason to lie about this.

    It WAS a close call, and would send Western (and a good amount of non-Western) civilization into chaos.

    Just because it wouldn’t have wiped us out doesn’t mean that’s no big deal.

    NdT got it very wrong.

  12. UFFDA says

    “Not quite beyond dispute” is the only part that Russel got right. In fact he actually doesn’t know what he’s talking about…”only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair”…that thought alone amounts to a tragically ridiculous infectious disease contracted only by intellectuals unable to get our of their own way. A foundation of despair is utterly lifeless. Poor, pathetic Russel.

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