Put Your Solar Storm Fears to Rest — A Look at the Mechanics Behind this Natural Phenomenon

Solar flares can disrupt some of our modern conveniences, but it is hardly anything to go in your nuclear shelter over.

Yes, the sun is currently “heating up,” as it were, with solar storms rising to activity not seen since 2006.  And, yes, the sun emitted a solar flare so powerful that we, as humans, can hardly comprehend it.  This solar flare is sending tons of radiation Earth’s way, and there has been a lot of chatter both in the media and online about the possible effects.  This article is written on Tuesday night, after the radiation was supposed to have already done whatever it is going to do.  For the average person, the effects were minimal at best.  However, the typical fear mongering has begun and many people are concerned about what this means, especially with so many apocalyptic 2012 theories hanging in the balance.  As our loyal readers know, Common Sense Conspiracy constantly monitors situations like this and tries to bring a dose of, well, common sense to the situation.  In this particular event, the problem is that the common sense is not so common.

The average person knows little about the workings of the sun and how it interacts with the Earth.  We know the important stuff, like daylight and nighttime, summer and winter, and to pack plenty of sunscreen when you go to the beach.  However, the sun is much more complicated than that.  The solar storms that we are currently experiencing may be quite strong, but the reality is that the sun works in cycles.  The sun goes through periods that have been roughly estimated to eleven years in length.  During these eleven-year cycles, the sun goes from fairly peaceful (for a giant fireball, anyway) to increasingly more turbulent.  It reaches a peak and then tapers off until it returns to its resting state.  Then the whole process starts again.  This process usually runs eleven years and is fairly predictable.  Why does it run eleven years?  I don’t think even Michio Kaku can answer that one.  But it does, and it has for as long as it has been recorded.

The last solar cycle ended in 2010.  That means that two years ago, the sun came down its slope and leveled out, leading to a fairly calm corona for a short time.  Now, the sun has entered another solar cycle, one it is now two years into, and it is starting to go into the period of its cycle where activity increases.  These solar storms, flares, and radiation will only increase steadily until the median point, around 2006 or 2007, when the sun will start to taper off and move toward the end of another cycle.  This process repeats, and has repeated, as far as scientists can tell, for billions of years.

Eleven years is a long time.  Longer than a decade even.  It is enough time for people to forget about solar cycles.  Remember, when the sun reaches its peak of activity in a few years, it will be eleven years from that point before it happens again.  So, it is only natural that it brings with it some fear-mongering, despite being a perfectly natural occurrence.

Amateur radio operators are very familiar with the solar cycle.  The 10-meter ham radio band is borderline on useless during the dormant periods of the solar cycle.  However, at its peak, the 10-meter band can propagate radio signals around the world at almost any time of day.  That’s why hams that enjoy 10-meters usually have other bands to jump to when the solar cycle slows down.  You can rest assured there is an army of 10-meter ham radio enthusiasts very excited as the sun gets kicking and they will enjoy a few years of a hot ionosphere to bounce their radio signals off of again.

While there is some potential for disruption of satellites during these storms and flares, it will not be a global catastrophe.  At best, you might not be able to check your email or text your wife on your phone for a few minutes.

Now that’s what I call an apocalypse…

3 thoughts on “Put Your Solar Storm Fears to Rest — A Look at the Mechanics Behind this Natural Phenomenon”

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