We've only just wiped the sweat from our brow following the averted Mayan apocalypse, but already news is spreading of another impending doom; and this one even has actual science behind it.
According to a group of experts at the Royal Academy of Engineering in London, a solar superstorm - caused by the Sun ejecting billions of tonnes of highly-energetic matter travelling at a million miles an hour - is not only inevitable - but coming soon. "The two challenges for government are the wide spectrum of technologies affected today and the emergence of unexpected vulnerabilities as technology evolves," says Professor Paul Cannon. So let's prepare...
1. Stock up on candles
During a superstorm, solar particles can cause power surges, significant enough to blow out giant transformers, causing power cuts. Not scary enough for you? Consider this: the fact that electrical grids all around the world will be affected, means it will likely take a much longer time than usual to get the lights back on. Think whole cities without electricity, not for days, but weeks, months, even years.
2. Petition the Government
It is currently only possible to predict the next major solar "superstorm" about 30 minutes before impact, but scientists say that with more research into the behaviour of the sun, it might be possible to increase this margin. They want the Government to set up a 'space weather board' to look at measures to minimise the impact of the storm.
3. Get some cash out
Every time you pay for something with a credit or debit card, you're relying on satellite communications. Solar superstorms toy with satellites like a cat with a dead mouse, so forget using your card to pick up some groceries, cash will be much handier. (That's assuming we don't devolve into a barter-system, of course.....maybe get some chickens too....)
4. Dust off your A-Z
Disruptions to GPS (global positioning systems) are a major cause of concern during superstorm. Apart from making sure you're not onboard an aeroplane when the next one hits (cruises only from now till 2017, guys), it might be a good idea to keep hard copy maps in the car boot. Siri wont help you now.
And last, but certainly not least...
5. Familiarise yourself with Instagram's full range of filters
During the last major superstorm in 1859, aurorae (the natural light display, best-known as the 'northern lights') were reported all over the world. According to National Geographic, the lights were so bright that even though it was the middle of the night, "people in the northeastern U.S. could read newspaper print just from the light of the aurora." It will make for some lovely pics on your Facebook feed...as soon as the electricity's back up.
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