According to researchers from the University of Cambridge’s Center for Risk Studies, an event that occurs about once every one hundred years, Earth is due to be hit by a massive solar storm that could cost us $41.5 billion dollars per day with an additional $7 billion loss through the international supply chain.
Published in the journal Space Weather, The team found that during the most extreme blackout scenario, the storm could affect 66% of the US population. A strong enough solar blast would shut down many of the nation’s power grids, cell phones and even satellites.
“On average, the direct economic cost incurred from disruption to electricity represents only 49 per cent of the total potential macroeconomic cost,” the study noted.
Some researchers believe that outages would last only hours or a few days because electrical collapse of the transmission system would protect electricity generating facilities, while others fear blackouts could last weeks or months because those transmission networks could in fact be knocked out and need replacement.
“It was surprising that there had been a lack of transparent research into these direct and indirect costs, given the uncertainty surrounding the vulnerability of electrical infrastructure to solar incidents,” said Edward Oughton from University of Cambridge.
The countries most likely to be affected by the US’s potential power shortages are China, followed by Canada and Mexico, as “these countries provide a greater proportion of raw materials, and intermediate goods and services, used in production by U.S. firms.”
The biggest earthly effect from a solar storm in recent memory happened on March 13, 1989. The storm caused some satellites in orbit to lose control temporarily, auroras that were seen as far south as Florida and Texas and sparked an electrical collapse of the Hydro-Quebec power grid, causing a widespread electrical blackout for about nine hours.