KEY POINTS

  • Lloyd's of London and the Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc. released a report on the possible effects of solar storms on Earth
  • A powerful geomagnetic storm could trigger widespread power outages for several years
  • The report revealed that Washington, D.C., and New York City are the most vulnerable areas in the U.S.

A report by an insurance firm warned that New York City and Washington, D.C., are the places in the U.S. that are most vulnerable to the effects of a powerful solar storm. According to the report, these areas could experience widespread power outages that could last for a couple of years.

The report was made by the U.K.-based insurance firm Lloyd’s of London with the help of the Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc. It mainly focused on how a powerful geomagnetic storm caused by a massive solar flare would affect Earth.

As indicated in the report, during such an event, the highly charged particles from the Sun’s emissions would disrupt Earth’s magnetic field. Aside from affecting the operations of satellites in low-Earth orbit, the solar event would trigger a surge of electricity in the power lines, causing electrical transformers to blow out.

According to the report, a solar event as powerful as the one that hit Earth in 1859, which has been known as the Carrington Event, has the potential to cause blackouts that could last for several years.

“The total U.S. population at risk of extended power outage from a Carrington-level storm is between 20-40 million, with durations of 16 days to 1-2 years,” the report stated.

Lloyd’s of London noted that the duration of the power outages would depend on how long it would take power companies to repair or replace transformers damaged by the solar storm. Unfortunately, the report noted that some areas might experience longer blackout periods.

In the U.S., the report identified New York City and Washington, D.C., as the most vulnerable areas primarily due to their location, transmission grid layouts and their overall conductivity properties.

According to the report, these areas might experience the worst effects of a powerful solar storm on Earth.

“Weighted by population, the highest risk of storm-induced power outages in the US is along the Atlantic corridor between Washington D.C. and New York City,” Lloyd’s of London explained in the report. “This takes into account risk factors such as magnetic latitude, distance to the coast, ground conductivity and transmission grid properties.”

Founded by Edward Lloyd in 1686, Lloyd’s of London is an insurance market in Britain whose aim is to “act as an intermediary between clients, underwriters, brokers and insurance companies.”

Solar Storms Expected to Disrupt Earth for Next Decade The eruption of the sun on Sunday and Monday with an M8.7 class flare, causing the biggest solar radiation storm since 2003, has revived apprehensions of stronger solar flares in the near future. Photo: REUTERS