Coronal Mass Ejections: Living in the Dark

 

This a follow-on to my post Coronal Mass Ejections: Are You Paying Attention?. In that post I discussed the ongoing space “storm” and the threat such geomagnetic phenomena have on a civilization that is, and seems to be becoming evermore, dependent on electronic systems and devices. As I write, a 7th CME is making its way to earth in this current storm cluster. It is not expected to be civilization-ending, but what has been surprising about the latest storm is how much of a punch it has given as it is much smaller than some past storms that did not have that effect. The conclusion is that the Earth’s magnetosphere is weakening. Which, if so, means that CMEs of smaller intensity will have greater and greater impact going forward. Within this context one has to contemplate how one will live in the event your location is de-electrified by a geomagnetic phenomena. What strategies can you, should you, employ?

In our lifetimes we have seen natural disasters — earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, wildfires — occurring over and over again. The impact of such events, devastating as they may have been, is generally relatively short-lived at a societal level. Survivors recover. Aid of various sorts is provided by governmental and international bodies. Buildings are rebuilt and life returns to some sort of pre-disaster “normal”. The length of time over which this occurs is variable and certainly affected by politics, finance, and media attention. (Just ask the people of Maui why their homes haven’t been restored, while California homes were?) But the fundamental capacity to restore was always present.

Shift your attention now to the effects of a CME on a weakened magnetosphere: If the “ground zero” of such an event is in a limited area, particularly with a sparse population, the capacity of the affected government or its friends might well be sufficient to re-wire and replace infrastructure and electronic devices. But as you increase density and electronic infrastructure, the task of restoration begins to overwhelm the capacity to restore at a rate that avoids extensive death and harm to residents. Say the city of Orlando and surrounding towns were de-electrified, what would be the options? Mass evacuation or quarantine. Evacuation allows re-integration of the population into the electrified world but has its own challenges in housing and strains on services. For a given population X that would be the obvious choice. But for population Y it would not be obvious. And for population Z it would not be doable.

For population Z it does not matter that elsewhere in the world an electrified civilization exists. Maybe for the fittest and cleverest who can scheme a way to get to, and be accepted into, that world. But for most of population Z, they exist in a world of their own and are subject to the basic needs for human existence — food, shelter, temperature —and the means to obtain and control them. For the leaders and people living outside the electrical “dead zone,” they have a terrible choice to either do something, or do nothing. But the unavoidable reality is that nothing they can do will prevent anarchy, predation, and massive death. They can do food drops, but who will get it? They can do medicine drops, but will the people in need receive it? They don’t need to send shelter because it is abundant but without power. They can send weapons, but who should get them? They can send volunteer experts to educate the residents on how to survive a de-electrified world, but would those experts survive and, if so, not be monopolized by strong predators?

The de-electrified world is one of barter. Digital money is gone. Sovereign currency is no more valuable than any other means of exchange. Slowly, too slowly, population Z will develop a form of money that facilitates exchange better than barter, but that will not happen until the population falls to a level where a stasis exists between the surviving predators and the now-organized producers who are both capable of production and self-defense against predators. For population Z that stasis may also be the point at which the electrified world can be extended to them again. In other words, the experience of population Z is the best case, of the worst-case scenario.

So the questions come back to how do you live in a dark world? Your best chance comes from having thought it through and making some preparations consistent with your expectations. We are all told to have emergency supplies — food, water, batteries, first aid — to take us through a natural disaster while awaiting help from outside or restoration of power and services. Many of us also believe that having weapons in the home is necessary even for a short-term disaster because you never know what yahoo will try to do something to take advantage of the situation, limited in duration though it may be. All of this should be done in response to what we know are recurring phenomena.

But a different mindset is required for the permanent loss of the electrical grid. In the immediate aftermath having a working radio and batteries is useful to determine the extent of the affected areas. You need to know whether you are in a population X, Y, or Z scenario. For any of those you have to be prepared, at a minimum, for a longer period without outside help than that expected for a typical natural disaster — more food, more potable water, a plan for waste elimination, a pre-identified group of mutual support. Either individually or within the group the following is needed, scaled to the potential duration of imposed self-sufficiency:

  1. Books on living skills in a de-electrified world. There is a great loss of contemporary expertise in the skills of hunting, planting, harvesting, plant medicines, carpentry, water recovery and purification, sanitation, and the like. Books are a means of knowledge transmission and important references.
  2. Physical tools needed for those skills.
  3. Weapons to protect assets required for sustaining life.
  4. A plan for detecting and defending against predation.
  5. Books to cultivate the soul and spirit. Like a wildflower in a Soviet gulag, there is always something to lift the spirits and remind us we are human regardless of the challenges we face.

The first thing to remember is that you can’t plan and prepare for everything. But thinking it through and making some form of effort to prepare will aid in handling the shock and disorientation that such an event generates. The eldest of us will be unlikely to survive an event of extended duration. But we can be a source of comfort and focus for those who have the potential for survival. And our preparations can contribute to the survival of the capable. We all will die, but the obligation of one generation to the next is to give them the skills and knowledge to survive to produce and train successive generations.

Humans have existed on this planet for millennia without telephones, the internet, and digital money. We should encourage parents to have their children acquire or preserve the skills of camping and living in the out of doors, hunting, and fishing. We should celebrate and encourage cooking from scratch, gardening and animal husbandry in our young people. We cannot allow these skills to die out or become dependent on the latest gadget to make it easier and quicker. The importance of self-sufficiency never dies out, lest humans themselves become extinct.

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  1. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I have huge resistance to even contemplating the possibilities. At my own peril, I know.

    • #1
  2. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    It might be a good idea to include some information about protecting electronic equipment from such disruptions.  I’ve done some reading on that, but have not yet acquired steel trash cans etc in order to protect some devices.

    • #2
  3. MikeMcCarthy Coolidge
    MikeMcCarthy
    @MikeMcCarthy

    Given current political failures, is coronal activity more likely than EMP, and will the result be any different?

    • #3
  4. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    kedavis (View Comment):

    It might be a good idea to include some information about protecting electronic equipment from such disruptions. I’ve done some reading on that, but have not yet acquired steel trash cans etc in order to protect some devices.

    That’s really an interesting question. The key, I think is developing a prioritized list. Top of the list is a crank radio with AM/FM/SW bands. I think the crank loads a capacitor as opposed to a battery, but a battery may be involved as well. You can shield some devices by putting it in a plastic container with low conductivity. Then you have to decide for yourself what next to protect, if you can have it stored away and idle, etc. A big enough pulse from either a CME or a nuclear device generated EMP will fry everything and certainly the infrastructure, so saving equipment that is only useful if the infrastructure remains intact may be a misplaced priority. 

    • #4
  5. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    MikeMcCarthy (View Comment):

    Given current political failures, is coronal activity more likely than EMP, and will the result be any different?

    The result of an EMP will be devastating within a certain radius. A CME of a certain size and relative to the strength of the magnetosphere would create even wider damage. Both are population Z events with the current grid vulnerability. We have some control over the likelihood of an EMP, but no control over a CME. 

    • #5
  6. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Rodin (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    It might be a good idea to include some information about protecting electronic equipment from such disruptions. I’ve done some reading on that, but have not yet acquired steel trash cans etc in order to protect some devices.

    That’s really an interesting question. The key, I think is developing a prioritized list. Top of the list is a crank radio with AM/FM/SW bands. I think the crank loads a capacitor as opposed to a battery, but a battery may be involved as well. You can shield some devices by putting it in a plastic container with low conductivity. Then you have to decide for yourself what next to protect, if you can have it stored away and idle, etc. A big enough pulse from either a CME or a nuclear device generated EMP will fry everything and certainly the infrastructure, so saving equipment that is only useful if the infrastructure remains intact may be a misplaced priority.

    Yes, I’m referring to locally-powered items mostly, such as portable radios – including transceivers – and the associated batteries and some recharging equipment etc.  The latest I read was that steel trash cans with tightly-fitting lids, insulated inside to keep the equipment from being in contact with the metal shell, are supposed to be good protection against EMP but they didn’t get into CME-type events.  But if CME are always low-frequency events, just having things isolated from the power grid might be enough.

    • #6
  7. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    The Carringtn Event ought to have been a lesson for anyone in higher places truly concerned about having our society secured against an attack.

    It would be so wonderful if those money-focused American haters in our own government would be punished for spending so many resources on having us take our shoes off before getting on an airliner.

    With the tens of thousands of  Homeland Security personnel coming right off their service jobs at Wendy’s and Burger King to make 10 times as much poking granma in private places  because she might be an Iranian terrorist carrying a bomb aboard her flight to Reno.

    If that money had been spent on hardening our vulnerable and necessary infrastructures such as nuclear power plants, gas stations and airports, we would have achieved a much more durable security than the one making us take our shoes off. 

    • #7
  8. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Is it theoretically possible to plan for a network of post-CME or post-EMP-disaster, small, moneyless economies that distribute information about individual preferences almost as well as money by using digital data processing/data communications?

    I think it might be. If anyone has ever worked on a solution to the problem, I am not aware of it. I am sure that someone other than me is aware of the possibility, but I have never read about such a person. That’s why I’m mentioning the possibility.

    Money evolved in a limited data processing world. It was the only possible solution. But with our advanced understanding of economics and data processing, it is clearly not. We now know that an optimal solution to the problem of scarce resources does not depend on a useless medium of exchange. That solution is the only one possible only if you assume that all communication of bids and asks is one-to-one:

    I promise to give x units of money to one agent for y units of good z.

    If n agents (market supplier/demander) can communicate to all others their best-so-far bids and asks for (good u, quantity v, delivery window w) with every other agent simultaneously, then a simple central algorithm can find a satisfactory, or perhaps even an optimal, solution.

    In theory it could work better than money!

    • #8
  9. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Is it theoretically possible to plan for a network of post-CME or post-EMP-disaster, small, moneyless economies that distribute information about individual preferences almost as well as money by using digital data processing/data communications?

    I think it might be. If anyone has ever worked on a solution to the problem, I am not aware of it. I am sure that someone other than me is aware of the possibility, but I have never read about such a person. That’s why I’m mentioning the possibility.

    Money evolved in a limited data processing world. It was the only possible solution. But with our advanced understanding of economics and data processing, it is clearly not. We now know that an optimal solution to the problem of scarce resources does not depend on a useless medium of exchange. That solution is the only one possible only if you assume that all communication of bids and asks is one-to-one:

    I promise to give x units of money to one agent for y units of good z.

    If n agents (market supplier/demander) can communicate all their best-so-far bids and asks for (good u, quantity v, delivery window w)with every other agent, then a simple central algorithm can find a satisfactory, or perhaps even an optimal, solution.

    In theory it could work better than money!

    Can this be done in an unnelectrified environment?

    • #9
  10. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Probably worth mentioning that the series Dark Angel starring Jessica Alba, took place mostly in a Pacific Northwest that had been hit some years earlier by an EMP.

     

    • #10
  11. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    Investing heavily in Bitcoin and the like does not seem like such a good idea when contemplating these possibilities.

    • #11
  12. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Is it theoretically possible to plan for a network of post-CME or post-EMP-disaster, small, moneyless economies that distribute information about individual preferences almost as well as money by using digital data processing/data communications?

    I think it might be. If anyone has ever worked on a solution to the problem, I am not aware of it. I am sure that someone other than me is aware of the possibility, but I have never read about such a person. That’s why I’m mentioning the possibility.

    Money evolved in a limited data processing world. It was the only possible solution. But with our advanced understanding of economics and data processing, it is clearly not. We now know that an optimal solution to the problem of scarce resources does not depend on a useless medium of exchange. That solution is the only one possible only if you assume that all communication of bids and asks is one-to-one:

    I promise to give x units of money to one agent for y units of good z.

    If n agents (market supplier/demander) can communicate all their best-so-far bids and asks for (good u, quantity v, delivery window w)with every other agent, then a simple central algorithm can find a satisfactory, or perhaps even an optimal, solution.

    In theory it could work better than money!

    Can this be done in an unnelectrified environment?

    No.

    All of the computers and the backup electrical equipment would have to have been previously shielded according to the plan. The non-monetary market-clearing software would have to have been pre-developed and pre-distributed. After the catastrophe, it would be necessary for the public to know of the availability of the backup, and already have broad-based trust in the people who would implement the backup.

    If the public were not pre-trained on how to use the software to submit their bids and asks, and complaints about issue resolution, then the software would have to be dead-easy to learn, with help desks ready to go very quickly.

    • #12
  13. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    JoelB (View Comment):

    Investing heavily in Bitcoin and the like does not seem like such a good idea when contemplating these possibilities.

    I most assuredly understand the appeal of bitcoin and the like as a means of avoiding sovereign currency manipulation, but there are two ways to lose it (de-electrification or lost password). And spending it requires an electrified world. 

    • #13
  14. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Rodin (View Comment):

    JoelB (View Comment):

    Investing heavily in Bitcoin and the like does not seem like such a good idea when contemplating these possibilities.

    I most assuredly understand the appeal of bitcoin and the like as a means of avoiding sovereign currency manipulation, but there are two ways to lose it (de-electrification or lost password). And spending it requires an electrified world.

    In theory, the same prerequisites of my solution (moneyless market) could be solved the same way (or both plans would fail for the same reason: no working computers.)

    Restoring bitcoin balances from pre-catastrophe backups doesn’t create a theoretical problem.

    But bitcoin would fail for a reason that mine would not. It would fail because it is a monetary solution and mine specifically bypasses that obstacle. For a money-mediated market to function today, it must have functioned yesterday (Mises’s Recursion Theorem).

    But the day after the disaster, no bitcoin monetary system worked yesterday. There is no solution to this even in theory.

    For bitcoin to act as money after the disaster, it would not only be necessary to restore all money balances from pre-D. Bitcoin would already have to be the money of the monetary system. It is not today: the US Dollar and claims on it are  the only money.

    • #14
  15. Red Herring Coolidge
    Red Herring
    @EHerring

    Rodin (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    It might be a good idea to include some information about protecting electronic equipment from such disruptions. I’ve done some reading on that, but have not yet acquired steel trash cans etc in order to protect some devices.

    That’s really an interesting question. The key, I think is developing a prioritized list. Top of the list is a crank radio with AM/FM/SW bands. I think the crank loads a capacitor as opposed to a battery, but a battery may be involved as well. You can shield some devices by putting it in a plastic container with low conductivity. Then you have to decide for yourself what next to protect, if you can have it stored away and idle, etc. A big enough pulse from either a CME or a nuclear device generated EMP will fry everything and certainly the infrastructure, so saving equipment that is only useful if the infrastructure remains intact may be a misplaced priority.

    Don’t assume radio stations will be on the air. Instead of taking college courses in HS, kids need more technology courses, carpentry, gardening, electrical, mechanical. Standard STEM courses might be overrated when you consider survival skills. Live away from cities where you have water, trees, and land for gardening. You will need to be far enough away from cities so their escaping mobs can’t steal from you. Have bicycles. 

    • #15
  16. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Red Herring (View Comment):

    Have bicycles.

    Bingo. 
    It starts a whole new conversation about style. As nice as derailleur geared bikes are, the ability to maintain a multi-geared bike in a post electrified world is doubtful. Oh, and learn how to sandcast replacement parts. Buying multiple chains and tubes are a cheap investment. 

    • #16
  17. aardo vozz Member
    aardo vozz
    @aardovozz

    I, for one , am in favor of as many coronal mass ejections as possible: if the politicians were ever able to eject their coronas from their masses, this world would be a much better place.

    < sarcasm off >
    < cynicism always on >

    • #17
  18. Bill Berg Coolidge
    Bill Berg
    @Bill Berg

    Grew up on a dairy farm in NW WI, worked for IBM for 35 years, now live on a lake in NW IA with some chickens and a garden. 

    I expect our electrical grid to become increasingly unreliable due to “green” policies, and worse (CME, EMP weapon. etc) are increasingly possible.  

    Personal actions: 

    • over 100 mi from a city with 50k plus people. Closest is 3k
    • know our neighbors and many people in church, town, family, etc
    •  barter as much as possible
    • have a good supply of food staples (beans, canned goods. flour, etc.)
    • well armed and good supply of ammo … for personal use, or to barter/help others 
    • Generator/propane for “blips” (week or so)
    • Lots of books 

    Do I “expect it”? No. I also have fire insurance that I hope isn’t used as well.

    “Cluelessness” is the mark of our times. Debt, entitlement, reliance on systems from government down through infrastructure and community that are fragile at best.

    Western civilization needs a re-boot, and it is increasingly likely we will get one, like it or not. 

    Something like a big CME hits “Eastern seaboard”? Millions will die, and we are long past any chance of a “fix”. 

    My treasure is not in this world. 

     

    • #18
  19. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Whole-house surge protectors have been a thing for a while now, and required by code for new construction in many places.  Maybe that means something?

    • #19
  20. Red Herring Coolidge
    Red Herring
    @EHerring

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Whole-house surge protectors have been a thing for a while now, and required by code for new construction in many places. Maybe that means something?

    Would help against the worst things…but would for irregular power levels. The lightning strike fried the surge protector two doors down, but not mine. Strike hit in my yard, not theirs. Need to protect the things whether or not they are protected against a current surge. Tennessee offers many places isolated from cities. 

    • #20
  21. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Red Herring (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Whole-house surge protectors have been a thing for a while now, and required by code for new construction in many places. Maybe that means something?

    Would help against the worst things…but would for irregular power levels. The lightning strike fried the surge protector two doors down, but not mine. Strike hit in my yard, not theirs. Need to protect the things whether or not they are protected against a current surge. Tennessee offers many places isolated from cities.

    Here is a YouTube video. I don’t vouch for the information, but it does provide good food for thought: https://youtu.be/bPSTFe1dBAg?si=DbFM4tr8MVEa_NBg. My local power company offers whole house surge protection so I will probably get theirs (and they install). The video makes a good point of talking to your home owners insurance. 

    • #21
  22. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Bill Berg (View Comment):
    “Cluelessness” is the mark of our times. Debt, entitlement, reliance on systems from government down through infrastructure and community that are fragile at best.

    We–at almost death—rely way too much on what amounts to indiscriminate debt growth.

    There is obviously too much centralized power in this country run by “experts”. 

    • #22
  23. Red Herring Coolidge
    Red Herring
    @EHerring

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Red Herring (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Whole-house surge protectors have been a thing for a while now, and required by code for new construction in many places. Maybe that means something?

    Would help against the worst things…but would for irregular power levels. The lightning strike fried the surge protector two doors down, but not mine. Strike hit in my yard, not theirs. Need to protect the things whether or not they are protected against a current surge. Tennessee offers many places isolated from cities.

    Here is a YouTube video. I don’t vouch for the information, but it does provide good food for thought: https://youtu.be/bPSTFe1dBAg?si=DbFM4tr8MVEa_NBg. My local power company offers whole house surge protection so I will probably get theirs (and they install). The video makes a good point of talking to your home owners insurance.

    After what I saw lighting do to my neighbor’s house I like the idea that the energy company installs it.

    • #23
  24. Lunchbox Gerald Coolidge
    Lunchbox Gerald
    @Jose

    I would suggest lightning rods, AWAY from anything important.  My very limited personal observation is that lightning rods are more likely to be hit, than a structure without one. 

    • #24
  25. Lunchbox Gerald Coolidge
    Lunchbox Gerald
    @Jose

    Here is a different, and more optimistic, view at behindtheblack.com

     

    • #25
  26. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Lunchbox Gerald (View Comment):

    Here is a different, and more optimistic, view at behindtheblack.com

     

    Thank you @lunchboxgerald. Yes, the system was “prepared” because of our ability to detect them “early”. I think McDowell was most likely misquoted/his point mischaracterized. The issue is not that the “big one” is rare, but whether we are undergoing a polarity reversal of the magnetic poles. And related to that whether the magnet shield from solar wind and storms is weakening. If so, then the effects from smaller storms will be the same as from a much bigger “big one”. Zimmerman’s headline seems wildly overstated. No doubt we have learned a lot about protecting our systems. But there were system problems and challenges during the last small storm. And I don’t think the issue is whether we know how to handle things with what we have, as opposed to whether we could do more for the power grid to be robust against more intense geomagnetic energy reaching the surface of the earth. The solar “maximum” continues into 2025 as referenced in the linked article. We expect this to be a period of continued solar flares and CMEs of varying intensities and direction. Probabilities continue to favor us — a “kill shot” would be a random event. But whenever polarity reversal comes it will be like taking down a barrier to reposition it. For some period we will be quite vulnerable. Some solar watchers think that could be as soon as the 2030s and most assuredly (according to them) the 2040s. If you map out the solar maximum-minimum cycle you hope that the polarity reversal is quick and during a minimum (2030, 2041, 2052….). 

    • #26
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