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Solar flares and radio communications-how dangerous are our electronics?



On November 8, 2020, the sun exploded. Okay, it’s a bit dramatic (it explodes a lot), but a particularly large sunspot named AR2781 produced a C5 solar flare, which is a medium-scale explosion even for the sun. The flares range from A, B, C, M, and X to each category, ranging from zero to nine (for giant X flares, even higher). Therefore, C5 is almost the dead point of the scale. You may not have noticed, but if you live near Australia or the Indian Ocean and use radio frequencies below 10 MHz, you will notice that a 20-minute radio blackout on these frequencies is caused by flares.

According to NOAA’s Space Weather Forecast Center, sunspots have the energy to produce M-class flares, which are an order of magnitude stronger. NOAA̵

7;s radio interference levels range from R1 (M1 flares) to R5 (X20 flares). The sunspot is currently facing the earth, so any new flares will cause more problems. This leads us to ask ourselves: What if there is a major radio outage?

This situation is more than you think. In October, AR2775 caused two C flares. Although the plasma of the flares did not hit the earth, ultraviolet radiation caused a short radio interruption in South America. X-rays and UV radiation travel at the same speed as light, so when you see a flare, even if it can be done, it is already too late.

These effects are mainly related to the propagation of radio waves through the ionosphere. In the 1700s, who would care? However, in the middle of the 20th century, many things depended on this characteristic of high-frequency radio waves. Today, this may hardly matter.

If you own a shortwave radio, you may have noticed that you don’t listen to the radio as much as it did decades ago. Broadcasters who want to attract international audiences now use the Internet for broadcasting, unless they are targeting a part of the world where there is little or restricted Internet. Even the AM radio frequency band is no longer the mainstream in the past. Many people listen to FM (with different transmission methods), satellite radio, or streaming audio from the Internet. Of course, this uses radio instead of ionospheric propagation.

Intercontinental transit

Perhaps the largest commercial users of radio frequency bands are now transoceanic aviation and maritime vessels, but even then, many such uses are still using satellites and higher frequencies. Of course, the amateur radio operator is still there, and there are some time and frequency standard stations, such as WWV. Although there are some radio frequency navigation systems, such as LORAN and Gee, almost none of them support GPS anymore.

Would it be important to interrupt these services? Probably not, although if you are on an airplane or at sea, you may be a little nervous. Again, it only depends on how important the radio is to you and how many alternatives you have.

Again, the real big event-the so-called Carrington Incident-can directly affect many electronic products. The insurance industry believes that its losses may be as high as 2.6 trillion US dollars. worry? Maybe pay attention to the space weather channel. If you are interested in the plans of the US government if we hold another Carrington-level event, record them all. Frankly speaking, all in all, the plan seems to be able to make better predictions and develop new technologies. FEMA’s infographic claims that solar flares may affect your toilet, although this situation seems to take a while. It will be more interesting to read their excellent but unpublished memo on the subject. The maps on pages 16 and 17 show that the grid is vulnerable to geomagnetic storms, which is particularly interesting.


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