A false solar storm can cause ‘Internet apocalypse’

Scientists know. For decades, an extreme solar storm, or coronal mass ejection, could damage the power grid and potentially cause prolonged blackouts. Its effects will be felt everywhere, from the global supply chain and transport to the Internet and GPS. So far little research has been done, however, on how such solar emissions can have an impact, particularly on Internet infrastructure. New research shows that failures can be catastrophic, especially for submarine cables that affect the global Internet.

At the SIGCOMM 2021 Data Communication Conference on Thursday, Sangeeta Abdul J Jyoti of the University of California, Irvine, presented “Solar Superstars: Plans for Internet Apocalypse”, which could damage the Earth’s high-speed cloud of magnetic solar particles. ۔ Internet. Abdu Jyoti’s research points to an additional light that causes a solar storm to blackout: a scene where lightning strikes for hours or days, leading to massive Internet outages.

There is some good news ahead. Abdu Jyoti found that local and regional internet infrastructure would also be less at risk of large-scale solar storms, as the optical fiber itself is not affected by geographically affected currents. Short cable spans are also grounded very regularly. But the dangers of long-distance cables connecting the continents are enormous. A solar storm that has disrupted a large number of these cables around the world can cause massive damage to communications by disconnecting countries at the source, while maintaining the local structure. This would be tantamount to slowing down the flow of the apartment building due to the water main brake.

“What really made me think about it was that with epidemics we saw how unprepared the world was. There was no protocol to deal with it effectively and so did the Internet with flexibility. That’s the way it is. “Our infrastructure is not ready for a large-scale solar event. We have a very limited understanding of the extent of the damage.

This information gap is largely due to lack of data. Extreme solar storms are so rare that there are only three major examples in recent history. Major events in 1859 and 1921 showed that geomagnetic barriers could affect electrical infrastructure and communication lines such as telegraph wires. During the massive “Carrington Event” of 1859, the compass needles fluttered wildly and unexpectedly, and the aurora borealis appeared on the equator of Colombia. But those geomagnetic barriers occurred long before modern electric grids were established. In 1989, a moderate-intensity solar storm knocked out Hydro-Quebec’s grid and caused a nine-hour shutdown in northeastern Canada, but even before the rise of modern Internet infrastructure.

Although they are not frequent, coronal large-scale spending is a real threat to the flexibility of the Internet, says Abdu Jyoti. And after less than three decades of solar storm activity, he and other researchers say the chances of another event are increasing.

Underwater internet cables are likely to be damaged by solar storms for a number of reasons. For shepherding the data in the oceans, repeaters are installed at a distance of about 50 to 150 km on the basis of cables. These devices amplify the optical signal, ensuring that nothing is lost in transit, such as relay throw in baseball. Although fiber optic cable is not directly interrupted by geographically stimulated currents, the repeaters have electronic internals – and substantial repeater failures will disable the entire submarine cable. In addition, underwater cables are only grounded hundreds or thousands of kilometers away, leaving weaker components such as repeaters more susceptible to geomagnetically induced currents. The structure of the seabed also varies, possibly with some grounding points being more efficient than others.


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