An astrophysicist warned that Earth is prone to getting hit by a massive solar storm. Unfortunately, the scientist noted that it is hard to predict exactly when a catastrophic event will hit the planet.

Solar storms, which are caused by plasma and magnetic field emissions from the Sun, create high currents in the Earth’s magnetosphere. This can lead to a sudden surge of electricity in power lines, causing transformers and power stations to blow out.

Aside from wide-scale blackouts, solar storms can also disrupt the operations of satellites in low-Earth orbit, leading to a lack of GPS navigation support and mobile signal from handheld devices.

According to Emma Osbourne, an astrophysicist from the University of Southampton, society’s growing dependence on technology and electronic devices means that Earth will suffer a bigger hit from a solar storm compared to 100 years ago.

“If it did happen, there would be a surge in electromagnetic radiation that it could actually short circuit all of our equipment on Earth,” Osbourne said according to Express. “Which if you think of all the electronic equipment we have, that is a little bit worrying.”

The U.K.’s national weather service the Met Office previously reported that a massive solar storm could take out the country’s technology and entire electrical facilities. The cost of the damages from this kind of catastrophic event would be equivalent to about $20 billion.

Osbourne noted that Earth getting hit by a solar storm is almost certain. Unfortunately, since solar emissions and eruptions on the Sun’s surface are hard to predict, the astrophysicist noted that determining exactly when a solar storm will hit the planet is almost impossible.

“That is something which could happen – but when?” she said, “I don’t know. We can’t predict that, unfortunately.”

Despite the unpredictable nature of solar storms, Osbourne noted that certain power stations have already carried out the necessary precautions in preparation for these types of events.

“But there is good news, the power grids are aware of this, they are expecting it and they do have things which would help prevent all of our equipment from being damaged,” she said.

Solar flare Study suggests sun's activity was far more intense before planets formed. Pictured, an image showing the bright light of a solar flare on the left side of the sun and an eruption of solar material shooting through the its atmosphere, called a prominence eruption. Photo: NASA/SDO