Preparing for the 2024 Solar Storm
How will this year’s predicted solar maximum impact daily operations, and most importantly, preparedness and response strategies?
THIS WEEK’S CONTRIBUTOR:
Dakota Duncan, CEM, MPH, Director of Emergency Response
APTIM | Emergency Management
A firefighter and paramedic by trade, Dakota brings a decade of emergency response and incident management to APTIM. He has led Type 1, 2, and 3 incidents throughout the US, as well as unaccompanied minor operations on the US-Mexico border for the past six years. He has applied his specialties in emergency response and shelter operations to national disaster response efforts throughout Texas, Louisiana, Indiana, and Florida.
Preparing for the 2024 Solar Storm
The upcoming solar maximum, expected to peak between 2024 and 2025, marks a period of heightened solar activity throughout the sun’s 11-year solar cycle. On the positive side, this phase offers unique opportunities for scientific observation, allowing us to delve deeper into understanding our sun through various initiatives like NASA’s Heliophysics Big Year. However, there’s a significant downside to this heightened activity: the increased likelihood of geomagnetic storms.
With the potential impact of solar storms on our emergency management operations, I want to share insights on the approaching solar maximum and its implications for our preparedness and response strategies.
The Impact of a Solar Maximum
The historical context of the Carrigan Event in 1859 highlights the disruptive impact that a geomagnetic storm could have on our technologically reliant world today. With our interconnected global systems, the consequences of a severe solar storm (namely destructive coronal mass ejections, or large expulsions of plasma and magnetic field from the Sun’s corona) could lead to widespread blackouts, damage to electrical and computer infrastructure, and even disruption of essential services, including communication networks and the internet.
The unpredictability of solar cycles adds complexity to our preparedness efforts. While scientists attempt to forecast the intensity and timing of these events, historical discrepancies and uncertainties remind us of the challenges in accurate predictions. Therefore, our readiness hinges on a robust early warning system and effective response protocols.
Harnessing AI Against Solar Storms
Presently, our defense against solar storms primarily involves monitoring systems like the Advanced Composition Explorer and the DSCOVR Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite. These systems provide crucial but limited warnings, offering only a brief window—up to an hour—before a potential impact. This timeframe may allow for partial shutdowns of critical infrastructure if properly prepared.
Yet, advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) offer promise in enhancing our predictive capabilities. Projects like the Frontier Development Lab, leveraging AI to forecast solar storms, demonstrate encouraging results. The AI model, trained on historical solar exploration data, remarkably predicts impending solar storms up to 30 minutes in advance, potentially granting us more reaction time.
The collaborative effort involving NASA, the US Geological Survey, the Department of Energy, and other partners underscores the significance of this development. The open-source nature of the AI-based prediction system enables adaptation and integration into critical infrastructure operations, offering a potential layer of defense against impending solar disturbances.
How You Can Prepare
The forecasts regarding the upcoming solar maximum are intricate and come with uncertainties. While the possibility of geomagnetic storms and their consequences exists, for now, it’s not a cause for significant concern. (Don’t panic!) Still, it’s crucial for individuals and families to consider basic preparations for the potential impact of a prolonged internet outage. You can safeguard you and your family by considering alternative communication methods, such as maintaining a landline phone, having emergency radio communication devices, and establishing pre-arranged meeting points in case of separation.
In the event of an extended internet outage, you might experience disruptions in various services and communication channels. These could include limited access to online services, communication platforms, and financial transactions. It’s advisable to keep a supply of essential items, maintain printed copies of important documents, and have a backup plan for critical electronic transactions.
APTIM is on Your Side
While we may not have a foolproof shield against solar storms, these advancements provide us with crucial insights and tools to mitigate their impact. As we approach the anticipated solar maximum, APTIM Emergency Management remains vigilant and prepared to assist your business and community. With a combination of early warnings, strategic shutdowns, and the utilization of predictive technologies, we aim to minimize potential disruptions and navigate through any challenges that may arise.
Our team is actively engaged in readiness efforts. Equipment is being prepared and protocols are being developed to ensure readiness well in advance of any potential internet outage. Our goal is to uphold communication channels, sustain operational continuity, and ensure effective preparedness measures are in place. We will remain proactive in monitoring developments, refining our response plans, and leveraging available resources to fortify our resilience against the uncertainties posed by space weather events.
While the potential for a significant solar storm exists, it’s important to emphasize that this is not an imminent crisis. However, taking proactive measures and staying informed will undoubtedly assist in better managing any unforeseen challenges that may arise. Stay vigilant!
APTIM. In Pursuit of Better.