MSN Warns Disasters
MSN Warns Disasters by, Concept Activity Research Vault
March 7, 2012 18:22:42 ( PST ) Updated ( Originally Published: May 16, 2011 )
Los Angeles – May 16, 2011 – MSN Slate News reported ( read article below ) that a host of disasters are coming, which ‘the public should not become overly worried about’, but suggests throwing a celebration-like “18th Century Weekend” in-advance so ‘people can experience what a solar flare disaster might be like to live through’.
While the suggested Medieval celebratory affair ‘concept’ is ‘unique’, MSN suggesting the public ‘stock up on batteries’ was a bit off because apparently the journalist did not realize ‘batteries become drained’ subsequent to an environmental anomaly ‘overcharging’ from an ambient auroral current attributable to what occurs during a Solar Energetic Particle Event ( SEPE ); ‘candles’ or ‘lumeniscent gel sticks’ ( shake lights ) would work amidst such, however mainstream news media broadcasts and print media, without thoroughly researching facts first, have a habit of passing inaccurate information on to the general public, and at the same time, doing it mostly in a whimsical fashion so it can be easily swallowed by the public. That type of reporting does ‘not’ help the public, but only serves to provide the illusion that what is being reported about will probably never happen. Big mistake!
News reporting, as a public service, should take far more care when reporting about emergency disaster preparedness on ‘what to do’ and just ‘how to prepare’; especially when it comes to mentioning a ‘significant’ solar flare ( also known as ) a Solar Energetic Particle Event ( SEPE ) that could quickly and very seriously disable the national electricity infrastructure without warning.
To let CARV readers review how MSN Slate News recently put it to the general public, we cordially invite ‘you’ ( our readers ) to review the MSN Slate News report ( below ) so, you can be the judge on whom to rely on for delivering your emergency disaster preparedness information from.
Source: MSN Slate News
Meltdowns. Floods. Tornadoes. Oil spills. Grid crashes. Why more and more things seem to be going wrong, and what we can do about it.
The Century of Disasters by, Joel Achenbach
May 13, 2011 5:56 PM ( EST )
This will be the century of disasters.
In the same way that the 20th century was the century of world wars, genocide, and grinding ideological conflict, the 21st century will be the century of natural disasters and technological crises and unholy combinations of the two.
It will be the century when the things we count on to go right will – for whatever reason – go wrong.
Late last month ( April 2011 ), as the Mississippi River rose in what is destined to be the worst flood in decades, residents of Alabama and other states rummaged through the debris of a historic tornado outbreak.
Physicists at a meeting in Anaheim, California had a discussion about the dangers posed by the Sun.
Solar flares, scientists believe, are a disaster waiting to happen. Thus one of the sessions at the American Physical Society annual meeting was devoted to discussing the hazard of electromagnetic pulses ( EMP ) caused by solar flares – or terrorist attacks. Such pulses ( EMP ) could fry transformers and knock out the electrical grid over much of the nation. Last year the Oak Ridge National Laboratory released a study saying the damage might take years to fix and cost trillions of dollars.
But maybe even that is not the disaster people should be worrying about.
Maybe they should worry instead about the “ARkStorm.” That’s the name the U.S. Geological Survey ( USGS ) Multihazards Demonstration Project ( MDP ) gave to a hypothetical storm that would essentially turn much of the California Central Valley into a bathtub. It has happened before, in 1861 – 1862, when it rained for 45-days continously. USGS explains, “The ARkStorm draws heat and moisture from the tropical Pacific, forming a series of “Atmospheric Rivers” ( AR ) that approach the ferocity of hurricanes and then slam into the United States West Coast over several weeks.” The result, the USGS determined, could be a flood that would cost $725,000,000 billion in direct property losses and economic impact.
While pondering this, don’t forget the Cascadia subduction zone, the plate boundary off the coast of the Pacific Northwest, that could generate a tsunami much like the one that devastated Japan in March 2011. The Cascadia subduction zone, runs from Vancouver Island to northern California, last rupturing in a major tsunami spawning earthquake on January 26, 1700. It could break at any moment, with catastrophic consequences.
All of these things have the common feature of low probability and high consequence.
They are known as “black swan” events.
They are unpredictable in any practical sense.
There are also things ordinary people probably should not worry about on a daily basis.
You can’t fear the Sun.
You cannot worry a rock will fall out of the sky and smash the Earth, or that the ground will open up and swallow you like a vitamin.
A key element of maintaining one’s sanity is ‘knowing how to ignore risks’ that are highly improbable at any given point in time.
And yet in the coming century, these or other ‘black swan events’ will seem to occur with surprising frequency.
There are several reasons for this.
We have chosen to engineer the planet.
We have built vast networks of technology.
We have created systems that, in general, work very well, but are still vulnerable to catastrophic failures.
It is harder and harder for any one person, institution, or agency to perceive all the interconnected elements of the technological society.
Failures can cascade.
There are unseen weak points in the network.
Small failures can have broad consequences.
Most importantly, we have more people and more stuff standing in the way of calamity.
We are not suddenly having more earthquakes, but there are now 7,000,000,000 billion of us, a majority living in cities.
In 1800, only Beijing, China could count 1,000,000 inhabitants, but at last count there were 381 cities with at least 1,000,000 people.
Many are MegaCities in seismically hazardous places like Mexico City, Caracas, Venezuela; Tehran, Iran and Kathmandu amongst those with a lethal combination of weak infrastructure ( unreinforced masonry buildings ) and shaky foundations.
Natural disasters will increasingly be accompanied by technological crises, and the other way around.
In March 2011, the Japan earthquake triggered the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant meltdown.
Last year ( 2010 ), a technological failure on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig – in the Gulf of Mexico – led to the environmental crisis of the oil spill. ( I chronicle the Deepwater Horizon blowout and the ensuing crisis management in a new book: A Hole at the Bottom of the Sea: The Race to Kill the BP Oil Gusher. )
In both the Deepwater Horizon and Fukushima disasters, the safety systems were not nearly as robust as the industries believed.
In these technological accidents, there are hidden pathways for the gremlins to infiltrate the operation.
In the case of Deepwater Horizon, a series of decisions by BP ( oil company ) and its contractors led to a loss of well control — the initial blowout. The massive blowout preventer on the sea floor was equipped with a pair of pinchers known as ‘blind shear rams’. They were supposed to cut the drillpipe and shear the well. The forensic investigation indicated the initial eruption of gas buckled the pipe and prevented the blind shear rams from getting a clean bite on it so, the “backup” plan — of cutting the pipe — was effectively eliminated in the initial event; the loss of well control.
Fukushima also had a backup plan that was not far enough back. The nuclear power plant had backup generators – in case the grid went down – but the generators were on ‘low’ ground and were blasted by the tsunami.
Without electricity the power company had no way to cool the nuclear fuel rods.
In a sense, it was a very simple problem: a power outage.
Some modern reactors coming online have passive cooling systems for backups that rely on gravity and evaporation to circulate the cooling water.
Charles Perrow, author of Normal Accidents, told me that computer infrastructure is a disaster in the making.
“Watch out for failures in cloud computing,” he said by e-mail, “They will have consequences for medical monitoring systems and much else.”
Technology also mitigates disasters, of course.
Pandemics remain a threat, but modern medicine can help us stay a step ahead of evolving microbes.
Satellites and computer models helped meteorologists anticipate the deadly storms of April 27, 2011 and warn people to find cover in advance of the twisters.
Better building codes save lives in earthquakes. Chile, which has strict building codes, was hit with a powerful earthquake last year ( 2010 ) but suffered only a fraction of the fatalities and damage that impoverished Haiti endured just weeks earlier.
The current ( 2011 ) Mississippi flood is an example of technology at work for better and for worse.
As I write, the Army Corps of Engineers are poised to open the Morganza spillway and flood much of the Atchafalaya basin. That’s not a “disaster” but a solution of sorts, since the alternative is the flooding of cities downstream and possible levee failure. Of course, the levees might still fail. We’ll see. But this is how the system is ‘supposed’ to work.
On the other hand, the broader drainage system of the Mississippi River watershed is set up in a way that it makes floods more likely. Corn fields, for example in parts of the upper Midwest, have been “tiled” with pipes that carry excess rainwater rapidly to the rip-rap ( small stone ladden ) streams and onward down to rivers lined with levees. We gave up natural drainage decades ago.
The Mississippi is like a catheter, at this point. Had nature remained in charge, the river would have mitigated much of its downstream flooding by spreading into natural floodplains further up river ( and the main channel would have long ago switched to the Atchafalaya river basin — see John McPhee “The Control of Nature” — and New Orleans would no longer be a riverfront city).
One wild card for how disastrous this century will become is climate change.
There’s been a robust debate on the blogs about whether the recent weather events ( tornadoes and floods ) can be attributed to climate change.
It is a briar patch of an issue and I’ll exercise my right to skip past it for the most part.
But I think it’s clear that climate change will exacerbate natural disasters in general in coming years, and introduce a new element of risk and uncertainty into a future in which we have plenty of risks and uncertainties already. This, we don’t need.
And by the way, any discussion of “geoengineering” as a solution to climate change needs to be examined with the understanding that engineering systems can and will fail.
You don’t want to bet, the future of the planet, on an elaborate technological fix in which everything has to work perfectly. If failure is not an option, maybe you ‘should not’ try-it to begin-with.
So if we cannot engineer our-way out-of our ‘engineered disasters’, and if ‘natural disasters’ are going to keep pummeling us – as they have since the dawn of time — what is our strategy? Other than, you-know, despair? Well, that has always worked for me, but here are a few more practical thoughts to throw in the mix:
First [ 1st ], we might want to try some regulation by people with no skin in the game. That might mean, for example, government regulators who make as much money as the people they’re regulating. Or it could even mean a ‘private-sector regulatory apparatus policing the industry’, cracking down on rogue operators. The point is, we don’t want every risky decision made by people with pecuniary interests.
Second [ 2nd ], we need to keep things in perspective. The apparent onslaught of disasters does not portend the end of the world. Beware of ‘disaster hysteria in the news media’. The serial disasters of the 21st century will be – to some extent – a matter of perception. It will feel like we are bouncing from disaster-to-disaster in-part because of the shrinking of the world and the ubiquity of communications technology. Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta are always in a disaster zone somewhere – demanding to know why the cavalry [ emergency first responders ] has not showed up.
Third [ 3rd ], we should think in terms of ‘how we can boost’ our “societal resilience;” the buzz-word in the ‘disaster preparedness industry’.
Think of what you would do, and what your community would do, after a disaster.
You cannot always dodge the disaster, but perhaps you can still figure-out how to recover quickly.
How would we ‘communicate’ if we got [ solar ] flared by the Sun and the [ electricity ] grid went down over 2/3rds of the country?
How would we even know what was going on?
Maybe we need to have the occasional “18th Century weekend” – to see how people might get through a couple of days without the [ electricity ] grid, cell [ telephone ] towers, cable TV [ television ], iTunes downloads – the full Hobbesian nightmare. And make an emergency plan: Buy some ‘batteries’ [ < ? > NOTE: solar flare effects, during a Solar Energetic Particle Event ( SEPE ), renders ‘all batteries dead’. ] and jugs of water – just for starters.
Figure-out how things around you work.
Learn about your community infrastructure.
Read about science, technology, engineering and ‘do not worry if you do not understand all the jargon’.
And then – having done that – go on about your lives, pursuing happiness on a planet that, though sometimes dangerous, is by-far the best one we’ve got.
Hopefully, people will take an opportunity to read the CARV report on Solar Energetic Particle Event Effects so they can ‘really know what to prepare for soon’, ’before celebrating’ an “18th Century weekend” affair – complete with “batteries” – as suggested by the MSN Slate News article ( above ).
Although the aforementioned Slate News article indicates, “Solar flares, scientists believe, are a disaster waiting to happen. Thus one of the sessions at the American Physical Society annual meeting was devoted to discussing the hazard of electromagnetic pulses ( EMP ) caused by solar flares – or terrorist attacks. Such pulses ( EMP ) could fry transformers and knock out the electrical grid over much of the nation. Last year the Oak Ridge National Laboratory released a study saying the damage might take years to fix and cost trillions of dollars. But maybe even that is not the disaster people should be worrying about,” – we actually ‘may’ have ‘something “people should be worrying about,” as MSNBC puts it, or “concerned about,” according to NASA, in-lieu of the following MSNBC Space.Com report ( below ):
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Huge Solar Flare’s Magnetic Storm May Disrupt Satellites, Power Grids
March 7, 2012 13:19 p.m. Eastern Standard Time ( EST )
A massive solar flare that erupted from the Sun late Tuesday ( March 6, 2012 ) is unleashing one of the most powerful solar storms in more than 5-years, ‘a solar tempest that may potentially interfere with satellites in orbit and power grids when it reaches Earth’.
“Space weather has gotten very interesting over the last 24 hours,” Joseph Kunches, a space weather scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ( NOAA ), told reporters today ( March 7, 2012 ). “This was quite the Super Tuesday — you bet.”
Several NASA spacecraft caught videos of the solar flare as it hurled a wave of solar plasma and charged particles, called a Coronal mass Ejection ( CME ), into space. The CME is not expected to hit Earth directly, but the cloud of charged particles could deliver a glancing blow to the planet.
Early predictions estimate that the Coronal Mass Ejections ( CMEs ) will reach Earth tomorrow ( March 8, 2012 ) at 07:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time ( EST ), with the ‘effects likely lasting for 24-hours and possibly lingering into Friday ( March 9, 2012 )’, Kunches said.
The solar eruptions occurred late Tuesday night ( March 6, 2012 ) when the sun let loose two ( 2 ) huge X-Class solar flares that ‘ranked among the strongest type’ of sun storms. The biggest of those 2 flares registered as an X Class Category 5.4 solar flare geomagnetic storm on the space weather scale, making it ‘the strongest sun eruption so far this year’.
Typically, Coronal Mass Ejections ( CMEs ) contain 10,000,000,000 billion tons of solar plasma and material, and the CME triggered by last night’s ( March 6, 2012 ) X-Class Category 5.4 solar flare is ‘the one’ that could disrupt satellite operations, Kunches said.
“When the shock arrives, the expectation is for heightened geomagnetic storm activity and the potential for heightened solar radiation,” Kunches said.
This heightened geomagnetic activity and increase in solar radiation could impact satellites in space and ‘power grids on the ground’.
Some high-precision GPS ( Global Positioning Satellite ) users could also be affected, he said.
“There is the potential for ‘induced currents in power grids’,” Kunches said. “‘Power grid operators have all been alerted’. It could start to ’cause some unwanted induced currents’.”
Airplanes that fly over the polar caps could also experience communications issues during this time, and some commercial airliners have already taken precautionary actions, Kunches said.
Powerful solar storms can also be hazardous to astronauts in space, and NOAA is working close with NASA’s Johnson Space Center to determine if the six ( 6 ) spacecraft residents of the International Space Station ( ISS ) need to take shelter in more protected areas of the orbiting laboratory, he added.
The flurry of recent space weather events could also supercharge aurora displays ( also known as the Northern Lights and Southern Lights ) for sky-watchers at high latitudes.
“Auroras are probably the treat that we get when the sun erupts,” Kunches said.
Over the next couple days, Kunches estimates that brightened auroras could potentially be seen as far south as the southern Great Lakes region, provided the skies are clear.
Yesterday’s ( March 6, 2012 ) solar flares erupted from the giant active sunspot AR1429, which spewed an earlier X Class Category 1.1 solar flare on Sunday ( March 4, 2012 ). The CME from that one ( 1 ) outburst mostly missed Earth, passing Earth by last night ( March 6, 2012 ) at around 11 p.m. EST, according to the Space Weather Prediction Center ( SWPC ), which is jointly managed by NOAA and the National Weather Service ( NWS ).
This means that the planet ( Earth ) is ‘already experiencing heightened geomagnetic and radiation effects in-advance’ of the next oncoming ( March 8, 2012 thru March 9, 2012 ) Coronal Mass Ejection ( CME ).
“We’ve got ‘a whole series of things going off’, and ‘they take different times to arrive’, so they’re ‘all piling on top of each other’,” Harlan Spence, an astrophysicist at the University of New Hampshire, told SPACE.com. “It ‘complicates the forecasting and predicting’ because ‘there are always inherent uncertainties with any single event’ but now ‘with multiple events piling on top of one another’, that ‘uncertainty grows’.”
Scientists are closely monitoring the situation, particularly because ‘the AR1429 sunspot region remains potent’. “We think ‘there will be more coming’,” Kunches said. “The ‘potential for more activity’ still looms.”
As the Sun rotates, ‘the AR1429 region is shifting closer to the central meridian of the solar disk where flares and associated Coronal Mass Ejections ( CMEs ) may ‘pack more a punch’ because ‘they are more directly pointed at Earth’.
“The Sun is waking up at a time in the month when ‘Earth is coming into harms way’,” Spence said. “Think of these ‘CMEs somewhat like a bullet that is shot from the sun in more or less a straight line’. ‘When the sunspot is right in the middle of the sun’, something ‘launched from there is more or less directed right at Earth’. It’s kind of like how getting sideswiped by a car is different than ‘a head-on collision’. Even still, being ‘sideswiped by a big CME can be quite dramatic’.” Spence estimates that ‘sunspot region AR 1429 will rotate past the central meridian in about 1-week’.
The sun’s activity ebbs and flows on an 11-year cycle. The sun is in the midst of Solar Maximum Cycle 24, and activity is expected to ramp up toward the height of the Solar Maximum in 2013.
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Do we need “Planetary Protection?” NASA has a specific website, referenced here ( below ) as do others ( below ), including The Guardians of the Millennium.
Submitted for review and commentary by,
http://planetaryprotection.nasa.gov/about/ [ Planetary Protection ) http://www.lpi.usra.edu/captem/ [ CAPTEM ] http://www.nrl.navy.mil/pao/pressRelease.php?Y=2008&R=39-08r [ U.S. Naval Research Laboratory ] http://hesperia.gsfc.nasa.gov/sftheory/imager.htm [ RHESSI ]