It seems that the sun may be about to act up again. Apparently the Carrington Event was simply not enough.
From the article: IT IS midnight on 22 September 2012 and the skies above Manhattan are filled with a flickering curtain of colourful light. Few New Yorkers have seen the aurora this far south but their fascination is short-lived. Within a few seconds, electric bulbs dim and flicker, then become unusually bright for a fleeting moment. Then all the lights in the state go out. Within 90 seconds, the entire eastern half of the US is without power.
A year later and millions of Americans are dead and the nation's infrastructure lies in tatters. The World Bank declares America a developing nation. Europe, Scandinavia, China and Japan are also struggling to recover from the same fateful event - a violent storm, 150 million kilometres away on the surface of the sun.
The second problem is the grid's interdependence with the systems that support our lives: water and sewage treatment, supermarket delivery infrastructures, power station controls, financial markets and many others all rely on electricity. Put the two together, and it is clear that a repeat of the Carrington event could produce a catastrophe the likes of which the world has never seen.
This is a similar tactical scenario to the detonation of a low-yield nuclear device over the continental US which would create an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) that would fry any non-hardened electronic devices including transformers and automobile solenoids. The article does a pretty good job of outlining the major problems that will be immediate, the complete breakdown of social services from modern-day healthcare (hospitals generally have 72 hours for generators) to police and fire services. Food and fuel delivery trucks would be inoperable, and there would be no one to drive them in an event - the drivers will stay home to care for their families.
Now, I admit that the opening of this article irritated me with it's 2012 date for this event - people please. The hysteria (for those of you without the Sci-Fi or History Channel) comes from the fact that the Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar (Mayan) calendar ends on 21 December 2012. Now, the Mayans civilization effectively ended in 1697 when their last stronghold of Itza fell to Spanish conquistadores. They apparently missed the end of their civilization when calculating their calendar - why anyone would believe that they managed to pinpoint the end of my civilization is completely beyond me. This Dr. Venkman-esque harbinger of doom just rings hollow when viewed from an educated viewpoint.
Still - the solar flare threat is real. It has happened before, and it appears that the sun is going into a more active cycle again. This does not mean this *will* happen, only that the possibility is greater in the next few years.