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Solar Flare or Nuclear EMP? Which Is The Greatest Danger?

Over the last several years there have been many articles, blogs and books written about the dangers of a Nuclear EMP and a Solar Flare/Coronal Mass Ejection.  Many would like you to consider the threats equal.

They are not.

Both events can damage electronics and destroy the electric power grid.  But, there are significant differences in the scope of the damage that they cause and, more important, what you might do to prepare your electronics to survive either event.

To some of you, the following information may come as a surprise.

Modern, enhanced Nuclear EMP (NEMP) devices are designed to deliver 100 to 200 Kilovolts per meter (kV/m).  This is a massive and amazingly destructive blast of energy.  This high energy strike would be limited to a zone just south, east and west of ground zero if a NEMP were detonated in earth’s northern hemisphere.  Think of a thick-lipped clown smile and you will get a good idea of the area of Maximum Electronic Destruction (MED) delivered from an enhanced NEMP.  The geographic size of the MED is determined by the altitude of a NEMP detonation.

If you have the misfortune to live in this MED area, there is probably nothing you can do to prevent every electrical device that you own from being destroyed.  Nothing, not a Faraday Cage, nor any surge protector or any grounding device will prevent total and complete destruction of all electrical devices.  This includes all micro-electronics, automotive alternators & generators, all electric switches, surge-protectors and circuit breakers, all small portable generators, all large commercial generators, and every type of transformer – extra-large to super-small.  Everything electronic will be toasted, melted or fried.  Fortunately, the NEMP-MED occupies a relatively small area when compared to the total area that would feel the effects of a Nuclear EMP.

There is probably no device, cage, package, box, surge arrestor/protector or gadget that will protect your electronics from a NEMP-MED.  The NEMP-MED is designed to knock-out M-1 Abrams Tanks, Aegis Class Warships, Apache Attack Helicopters and, heaven forbid, Air Force One.  An aluminum foil wrapped shoebox containing your old cell-phone and an emergency battery radio will be blown through like toilet tissue held under Niagara Falls.

But, hold on, there is some good news. . . .

Those same devices, cages, packages, boxes, surge arrestors/protectors and gadgets should do a good job of protecting your electronics if you live outside of the NEMP-MED.  Of course, most of us will live outside of the NEMP-MED.  We really do need to take immediate measures to protect our electronics.  Fortunately, many of the measures that we would use to defend ourselves against a NEMP will also serve us quite nicely as an electronic defense against a massive Solar Flare/Coronal Mass Ejection.

When you consider those countries capable of delivering an enhanced nuclear EMP weapon to any point on earth, you really are only dealing with five countries; The United States, Russia, China, England and France.  Any other current or future country with nuclear weapon capabilities that would attempt to deliver a NEMP against one of the fore mentioned countries or their allies would find themselves at the receiving end of a nuclear holocaust.  A nuclear EMP attack is internationally recognized as the equivalent to a ground blast nuclear strike.  And, a full nuclear response is justified.

So, now that I have gotten Nuclear EMP out of the way, let us discuss the real threat to our electric way of life.

That would be the Sun.

There has been a 1,850% increase in sunspot activity in the past 70 years when compared to the past 1,200 years (combined).  The Sun is capable of delivering a geomagnetic storm onto our planet that would wipe out the entire world’s electric power grid.  NASA, NOAA, and many, many other scientific sources are all saying the same thing.  The next several years are going to be very problematic, if not down right devastating to our electric service providers.

Stop here and do your inner skeptic a favor.  Go onto your computer and set up a daily Google Alert for the term: Solar Flare.  Google will walk you through the easy set-up.  You will be sent a daily list of all articles and news reports dealing with “Solar Flares.”  Read the alerts for a couple of days.  You will quickly come to the conclusion that some of the most respected scientists in the world are telling us that something really bad is coming.  REALLY, REALLY BAD!

And, unlike a Nuclear-EMP, artful diplomacy or heavy-handed military threats will not keep a Coronal Mass Ejection from hitting the Earth.  We are not talking about an event that might hit our planet every 1 million years, or every 10,000 years.  This is an event that scientists know hits the earth approximately every 150 to 200 years.

The last CME to hit earth with enough power to knock our present-day society back into the industrial equivalent of the 1700’s, hit in 1859.  This was the, “Carrington Event.”  Google it and read up on this Coronal Mass Ejection (CME).  It is simply a matter of time until it happens again, the conditions on the Sun are right and we are now due.

So what does a REALLY BAD Solar Flare/Coronal Mass Ejection do and why should you be concerned?  I’ll leave the “How Solar Flares Happen” to the heliosphere-astrophysicists.  What it does when it hits your electronics is the real question.   So here goes:

For those of you that have been doing your reading, you already know that a nuclear EMP delivers three forms of energy.  These are called; E-1, E-2 and E-3.  E-1 and E-2 do not occur during a massive Solar Flare/CME strike on our planet.  If you want to know more about E-1 and E-2, I recommend:

Nuclear Electromagnetic Pulse, by Jerry Emanuelson, B.S.E.E.

When a Coronal Mass Ejection actually strikes the Earth, the energy that we will deal with is the E-3 type of energy.  The E-3 energy is very similar, if not identical to lightning.  We all know what lightning is and most of us should already have surge protectors to protect our electronics from lightning.  Actually, it is as simple as that – Right?

Well, kind’a.

You see, the E-3 energy produced by a massive CME lasts for a very long time.  Whereas a lightning strike may last only a fraction of a second a Coronal Mass Ejection can last minutes, hours, even days, like the Carrington Event in 1859.  The energy passing through our atmosphere from a CME can be in the thousands upon thousands of volts.

This energy is attracted to long heavy metal lines and long strands of metal wire wrapped tightly together.

There are over 150,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines in the United States looping from “H” metal grid to the next “H” metal grid.  It is called the “Electric Grid,” because the lines that carry our electricity are supported by large metal “H-grids.” These long transmission lines are natural collectors of the atmospheric energy delivered by a CME.  Unfortunately, these long transmission lines are also quite efficient at feeding this energy to transformers.

A transformer takes very high voltage and reduces (transforms) it to a lower voltage.  Ultimately, a transformer reduces electric voltage down to a voltage that you can use in your home or business.  The transformer accomplishes this task of reducing the voltage by passing the electricity through many, many, many coils of metal wire, which is usually copper.  The copper wire coils get very warm when transforming electricity.  When hit by excessive voltage, like during a CME, the coils get too hot and begin to melt.  The coolant, which is a type of oil, then catches on fire and destroys the transformer. 

Very-Large Transformers can take up to three years to replace and they are no longer built in the United States.  Small, telephone pole mounted transformers will also sustain major damage.  In 1992, after Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida, every spare small transformer in North America was used restoring power in South Florida.  This was followed by a one-year world-wide shortage of small transformers.  The world is woefully unprepared to restore even a tiny portion of the world’s electric supply following a massive CME.

The same CME surges that destroy transformers have an equally destructive effect on the copper windings of generators, alternators and, really, any electric motor.  The copper windings that are found within an unprotected portable home generator will be damaged from a CME.  At the very least, the useful life of an unprotected generator will be severely reduced by a CME.  Rather than a useful life of 3 to 5 years, the generator’s life-span will be measured in months, weeks, maybe only days.  A Faraday Cage will adequately protect a portable home generator from a CME, ensuring a useful life of three to five years of continuous daily use.  This should provide you with the electric power you will need until your local power grid has been restored.

How do you protect yourself? 

  1. Get a portable gas powered generator and store it in a Faraday Cage.
  2. Install a whole house/business surge protector between the electric service meter and your service (circuit breaker) panel.  See the HD2 Home/Business Surge Protector.
  3. Plug all individual electronics into a surge protector. Click here to see a full selection of surge protectors.
  4. Encourage all of your neighbors to do the same.  To be the only household in your neighborhood with power will make you a target.

At this time there is little evidence that power companies are taking the steps necessary to protect the national power grid from a NEMP or a CME.  In all likelihood, it will take Legislation from the U.S. Congress to force power companies to spend the money necessary to harden the national power grid.

Go to EMPact America to learn how to make your voice heard by your congressional representative.

It would take 2 to 5 years to re-build our national power grid if we were hit by a Carrington-sized CME.  The U.S. Congressional Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse predicts that within the first year of a total failure of the power grid, 60 to 80 percent of the population would not survive.  The only thing that we can do right now to change this mortality rate is to purchase a portable generator, store it in a Faraday cage and encourage all of your neighbors to do the same.

If our way of life in the United States is to be preserved, every household should possess a portable gas-powered electric generator and protect it within a Faraday Cage.

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  1. [...] to EMP damages. Also, bear in mind that modern Nuclear EMP devices can blast out up to 200kV/m (source) – which is far more than the amount used in the [...]