With dire predictions about a failed power grid being made by some, many others are taking a calmer approach. A solar physicist at Rice University says solar flares can affect us, but the threat isn’t imminent.
“There is a very real threat to things like electronic equipment on the ground, satellite, and sometimes passengers on planes which take polar routes,” says Professor Steven Bradshaw.
But, he says we should be “okay.”
He continues, “Unless there really is some type of major storm which perhaps does take down a power grid, or a communications satellite, so our mobile phones don't work - that kind of thing - then we can be reasonably confident we will be okay.”
Instances of solar flares affecting telegraphs in 1859 and a power grid in 1989 show what damage solar flares can cause, but recent studies and work by power companies have lessened the threat.
“Power companies are actually taking these things seriously now and enough substations and transformers have actually been damaged by these things that it’s a worthwhile investment,” he says.
He says shielding transformers and other parts of the grid are a reasonably simple thing to do.