Here are the show notes from episode 12, Solar events & their effects on earth.
New segment – Hurricane Watch
For the remainder of the hurricane season, I will update you on current storms, their positions, tracks, and warnings.
Current Storm – Ophelia
Ophelia has regained hurricane status and now threatens parts of Newfoundland. Newfoundlanders are urged to get their preps in order & batten down the hatches.
Phillipe is far off the coast, nearing Bermuda, but is loosing strength. However, Phillipe continues to be a storm to be watched.
Check my blog for current NOAA feeds located near the bottom of the page.
Canadian News Stories
The United States is looking at building fences along the border with Canada to help keep out terrorists and other criminals, according to a draft report by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency
The report proposes the use of "fencing and other barriers" on the 49th parallel to manage "trouble spots where passage of cross-border violators is difficult to control."
But a spokesperson for U.S Customs and Border Protection said the government is not considering the fence option "at this time" and instead is looking at the environmental effects of putting more manpower, technology and infrastructure along the border.
The border service is also pondering options including a beefed-up technological presence through increased use of radar, sensors, cameras, drones and vehicle scanners. In addition, it might continue to improve or expand customs facilities at ports of entry.
The agency considered but ruled out the possibility of hiring "significantly more" U.S. Border Patrol agents to increase the rate of inspections, noting staffing has already risen in recent years.
Customs and Border Protection is inviting comment on the options and plans a series of public meetings in Washington and several U.S. border communities next month. It will then decide which ideas to pursue.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano noted last month the challenges of monitoring the vast, sparsely populated northern border region. She stressed manpower, but also a greater reliance on technology.
Should the U.S. build fences along the border? Take our survey.
Ironically, the moves come as Canada and the U.S. try to finalize a perimeter security arrangement that would focus on continental defences while easing border congestion. It would be aimed at speeding passage of goods and people across the Canada-U.S. border, which has become something of a bottleneck since the 911 attacks.
Relatively speaking, Washington has focused more energy and resources on tightening security along the border with Mexico than at the sprawling one with Canada.
But that may be changing.
Only small portion secured
A U.S. Government Accountability Office report recently warned that only a small portion of the border with Canada is properly secure. It said U.S. border officers control just 50 kilometres of the 6,400-kilometre boundary.
The Customs and Border Protection report says while fences have been a big element in deterring unauthorized crossings of the U.S.-Mexican border, "it is unlikely that fencing will play as prominent a role" on the northern border, given its length and terrain that varies from prairie to forest.
However, the agency would use fencing and other barriers such as trenches to control movement and sometimes delay people trying to sneak across the border, increasing the likelihood they could be caught, says the report.
It doesn't provide details about what the fences might look like, but suggests they would be designed to blend into the environment and "complement the natural landscape."
The approach would also involve upgrading roadways and trails near the border.
"The lack of roads or presence of unmaintained roads impedes efficient surveillance operations," says the report. "Improving or expanding the roadway and trail networks could improve mobility, allowing agents to patrol more miles each day and shortening response times."
Over the last two years, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has already made what it calls "critical security improvements along the northern border," adding inspectors at the ports of entry and Border Patrol agents between ports, as well as modernizing land crossings.
Nearly 3,800 Customs and Border Protection officers scrutinize people and goods at crossings. The number of Border Patrol agents working between crossings along the northern parallel has increased 700 per cent since Sept. 11, 2001. And some three dozen land ports of entry are being modernized.
Unmanned U.S. aircraft patrol about 1,500 kilometres along the northern border from Washington to Minnesota as well as more than 300 kilometres of the Canadian border around New York state and Lake Ontario.
Space weather describes the sun’s effects on Earth. Let’s first take a look at how the sun works. The sun uses nuclear fusion to fuse hydrogen, producing massive amounts of energy & helium. A strong magnetic field, much like earth’s holds everything together. However, unlike earth, the sun’s magnetic field is much more complex, and undergoes constant changes.
Solar wind is the constant flow of charged particles, mostly electrons & protons flowing out from the sun into the solar system. Solar wind can be evidenced by comets, who’s tail always points away from the sun, no matter weather it is traveling towards it or away from it.
The sun also has seasons, much like the earth, except that one solar year is equal to about 11 earth years. This is known as the solar cycle. At cycle minimum, the sun is a relatively calm star with unchanging characteristics. This is called Solar Minimum. At cycle maximum, the sun is a violently changing star with a costant flow of solar flares, cme’s & other phenomenae. This is called Solar Maximum. The next solar maximum is expected in 2012 - 2013. Therefore, all the activity we see now will be increasing in stregnth and frequency in over the next year or two.
The sun also has a plasma based atmosphere, known as the corona. While the surface of the sun has a temperature of about 6000deg. The corona’s temperature is closer to about a million degrees.
Solar Flares - A solar flare is a sudden release of energy from the sun’s surface. A flare ejects protons, electrons & atoms through the corona into space. Typically, the energy produced by a solar flare travels along the solar wind and a day or two to reach earth.
CME’s - Coronal Mass Ejection is similar to a Solar Flare, except they occur from the corona. CME’s can take from 1 to 5 days to reach earth.
The effects on earth are similar for the two events. Electrically charged particles penetrate earth’s atmosphere. The northern & southern lights are one effect of charged particles interacting with earth’s magnetic field. The NOAA has classified the effects into 3 categories…
These are the three categories you have heard me report on earlier shows.
Radio Blackouts - disturbances in the ionosphere caused by x-ray emissions from the sun
Solar Radiation Storms - elevated levels of radiation that occur when the numbers of energetic particles increase.
Geomagnetic Storms - disturbances in the geomagnetic field caused by gusts in the solar wind that blows by Earth.
You can download a table outlining the levels and effects of each category from the download page of my blog.
Solar events such as flares & cme’s cause an acceleration of electromagnetic particles in the earth’s atmosphere. These charges passing along conductors can induce an electric flow, much the way a turbine produces the electricity that we use everyday.
When extra current is introduced into the power grid, the safety equipment can misread this as a surge and begin to shut down the grid. The excessive current can also overload transformers and substation equipment causing widespread outages. Wires in sensitive electronic equipment can burn out when higher voltages are created.
In 1989, a geomagnetic storm caused 6 million quebekers to lose power for 9 hours. Excess currents in the power grid caused safety equipment to misread a surge and trip offline. Within less than a minute, other equipment followed suit. Power was restored by rediverting export power and purchasing power from other provinces. Luckily, equipment damage was minimal, but could have easily burnt out transformers across the grid, causing delay time in restoration in weeks or even months.
Damage is mot limited to power grids. Any sensitive electronic equipment can be destroyed by geomagnetic storms. Radio, television, and cell phone service equipment and satelites could be completely destroyed by a strong enough event. In fact, modern cars can have their internal computers damaged, rendering them useless. A powerful enough solar event could send us back in time, technologically, to the 1800’s where electricity, radio, television, telecommunications, and even computers and the internet would be non existant. Eventually, man could recover from this by slowly rebuilding infrastructure, but immagine how long this might take.
I invite you to do your own research on solar events & geomagnetic storms. There are ways to protect your equipment, such as faraday cages, but in my opinion, there could be little point. Short wave radios and ham radios could be used to get information from far away regions of the earth that may be less affected, but what good will a television be if there are no television stations left transmitting? Even if we rebuild our systems, who’s to say that we rebuild with the same technology? Just a few things to think about.