Scientists have long been concerned about the effects of a massive solar storm on our planet’s electronic infrastructure, but a new study explores how, with less than a day’s notice, a strong enough solar storm could cut off entire continents from the internet for days – or even months.
The study (PDF), presented at the SIGCOMM 2021 conference last month, comes from Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi, an assistant professor at the University of California, Irvine. In it, she describes how undersea cables – which are essential to connecting the different continents to a common Internet – are vulnerable to a massive solar flare like those that hit the Earth in the 1800s and early 1900s.
“What really got me thinking about this is that with the pandemic we saw how unprepared the world was. There was no protocol to deal with it effectively, and it’s the same with internet resilience,” Abdu Jyothi told Wired before presenting her paper at the conference. “Our infrastructure is not prepared for a large-scale solar event. We have very limited understanding of what the extent of the damage would be.”
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feature image credit NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
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