When the U.S. intelligence community forecasts future challenges facing the nation, it nearly always focuses on man-made problems. However, the quadrennial analysis of emerging threats and opportunities released earlier this month by the Director of National Intelligence contained something different: a warning that solar geomagnetic super-storms pose “a large-scale threat to the world’s social and economic fabric.” The concern is that such storms, which disrupt the Earth’s magnetic field, might collapse electrical grids and damage sensitive electronic systems such as satellites. The danger to the electrical distribution system is especially worrisome because every facet of commerce and culture now depends on a steady flow of electricity, and geomagnetic storms have repeatedly impeded that flow in recent decades. John Kappenman, an expert on the subject, has modeled how an intense storm like those experienced in 1859 and 1921 might cause vast damage today due to the expansion of the electric grid during the intervening decades. Fortunately, solutions are available if Washington will just take time to notice the danger. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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