A Bad Solar Storm Could Cause an ‘Internet Apocalypse’

Scientists know in those decades that was a serious one storm of the day, o release of coronal mass, damage electrical grids and possibly cause prolonged blackout. The results can be felt anywhere from worldwide chains and internet transportation and GPS access. However, little has been investigated to date, the effect such as a sunburst that could be made on specific internet infrastructure. New research has shown that failures can be devastating, especially the submarine cables that clog the global internet.

on SIGCOMM 2021 At the data communications conference on Thursday, Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi of the University of California, Irvine presented “Solar Superstorms: Planning for an Internet Apocalypse,” an analysis of the damage of a fast -moving magnetic cloud solar particles could cause the global internet. Abdu Jyothi’s RESEARCH REVEALS points out an additional nuance to a cause of solar storm devastation: the situation where even if power returns in hours or days, mass internet blackouts will continue.

There is some good news ahead. Abdu Jyothi found that local and regional internet infrastructure could be at lower risk of being damaged even by a strong solar storm, because the optical fiber itself is not affected by geomagnetically induced currents. Short cable ties are also often installed. But for the long submarine cables that connect the continents, the risk is even greater. A solar storm that damaged many cables around the world could cause a massive loss of connectivity by cutting off countries of origin, even if local infrastructure was left untouched. It’s like running a drain into an apartment building due to a water break.

“What makes me think about this is that in the pandemic we see how prepared the world is. There is no protocol to fight it effectively and the same as the stability of the internet,” Abdu Jyothi told WIRED earlier in his speech. our infrastructure is not ready for a large-scale solar activity. We have a limited understanding of what the magnitude of the damage will be. “

Most of that information comes from a lack of data. It is very rare for strong solar storms to have only three major examples disappearing in recent history. Major events in 1859 and 1921 showed that geomagnetic disturbances could disrupt electrical infrastructures and communication lines such as telegraph wires. During the rapid 1859 “Carrington Event,” the compass needles went wild and unpredictable, and the aurora borealis could be seen on the equator of Colombia. But geomagnetic disturbances occurred before modern electric grids were built. A moderately heavy solar storm in 1989 toppled the Hydro-Québec grid and caused a nine-hour congestion in northeastern Canada, but it also happened before the rise of modern internet infrastructure. .

Even if this doesn’t always happen, coronal mass ejections are a real threat to internet stability, according to Abdu Jyothi. And after three decades of low solar storm activity, he and other researchers point out that the probability of another event increases.

Undersea internet cables can be easily damaged by daytime storm damage for a number of reasons. To retrieve data in unwanted seas, cables are laid on repeaters at distances of nearly 50 to 150 kilometers depending on the cable. These devices amplify the optical signal, ensuring nothing is lost on travel, like a relay throw in baseball. While fiber optic cable is not directly vulnerable to interference by geomagnetically induced currents, the electronic components of repeaters are – and enough repeater failures will render an entire underwater cable unusable. In addition, underground cables are only laid at distances hundreds or thousands of kilometers apart, leaving fragile components such as repeats that are more exposed to the floods. geomagnetically induced. The composition of the sea floor is also different, which may make some points of trust more effective than others.

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