Saturday, April 5, 2014

Carrington's Nightcap

Newt worries about the night the lights go out in Georgia:
Within a year, nine out of 10 Americans could be dead.* And whatever causes the national apocalypse—be it North Korean malice or the whims of the sun—the downfall will ultimately be our own fault.

That's the fear of Newt Gingrich and other members of a high-profile coalition who are convinced that our fragile electrical grid could be wiped out at any moment. Their concern?

Electromagnetic pulses, the short bursts of energy—caused by anything from a nuclear blast to a solar flare—that can wreak havoc on electrical systems on a massive scale. And the coalition believes it's coming soon.

“I think we're running out of time," said Peter Pry, a former CIA officer and head of a congressional advisory board on national security...
Maybe. Call me crazy, but I'm skeptical that the North Koreans are going to be able to wipe out the entire US power grid with a space-based nuclear pulse weapon which has never been tested in any significant sense. It's not that the Norks couldn't theoretically build one, launch it into orbit, then detonate it in the perfect spot and with enough power to wipe out electronics on both coasts and everywhere in between. It's just that nothing ever works like that the first time. There are things to worry about and then there are things to not worry about. Kim Jong Un's EMP space bombs fall into the second category, IMO.

That big yellow ball in the sky falls into the first. If the earth is hit by a solar storm like the 1859 Carrington Event, then we will likely incur a significant but unknown amount of damage to our power grid.  We will likely suffer significant outages of an unknown geographical extent and an unknown amount of physical damage to our infrastructure, resulting in an unknown time-and-cost to fix. Depending on the time of year, an unknown number of people may be exposed to elements that could include extreme heat or bitter cold. And an unknown amount of food may incur spoilage or the inability to be trucked. So that's what we know.

The fact is that it's a concern. The fact is also that we don't really know what might hit us, so it's hard to know how much to be concerned.  Maybe Newt's plan will save us all, maybe not. We probably have no way to know until it works. Or doesn't.

So that's why you prep. Not because the National Journal says 90% of Americans will die - that's a number designed to attract attention. You prep because you don't know, because it's wise to make hay while the lights are on, and because night is coming when no one can work. Maybe.

* Doom pr0n, FTW!


  1. Our grid, even if just a quarter of it were damaged beyond repair? Could not be rebuilt in our grandchildren's lifetime, as is. Now, does that mean it wouldn't be rebuilt, somehow? I doubt it. It just wouldn't be as we know it, for better or worse.

    The problem? While we could harden it to withstand, much better anyway, an EMP attack (though a simple three to five higher altitude cruise nukes would do just as good, or better than, some new-fangled space... thing, which I think they aren't discussing, and is more likely, because it is more likely and we have no means of even detecting such an attack) - a Carrington event? I don't think we CAN harden defenses for that level of situation. The best we could do is harden, then put up an early detection system in orbit, and shut the grid down instantly... hoping to ride it out disconnected and shut down. We would still lose much, but... the critical components, the nearly irreplaceables, might be saved.

    I love playing chess. I just... get a bit twitchy when I realize my butt is on the line. Which... it is. Oh, and something they don't mention? There have been three or four very well organized attacks on the grid. If those had happened at the same time, with perhaps a few more? They could have taken down the national grid, the whole thing, for years. Not being mentioned in the news. But don't worry, the FBI is right on that, right after finding out who Linda Lou is dating this Friday. Fuckers.

  2. I don't think we CAN harden defenses for that level of situation

    I'm guessing that's correct. But it's a very progressive* American view to say, x is a problem, and if government will just do y then it will be solved, and then to spend all kinds of time and effort fighting over a political solution that may or may not solve an unknowable problem.

    But we have to do something, because we're progressive Americans who have been taught that if you're not agitating for a collective solution, you're part of the problem. So we all get on board with Washington or Topeka or Sacramento 'doing something.'

    Whether or not the something accomplishes what it ought is not part of our particular idiom.

    * of both parties.