As preppers we tend to focus more on disaster scenarios that are more down to earth, but preparing for a CME and the after affects could turn into something “down to earth.” As we we’re watching Doomsday: 10 Ways the World Will End on the History Channel some of these disasters from outer space are a little far fetched for even my paranoid brain to handle.
CME’s (Coronal Mass Ejections) happen more often than you think, but most of the time we are not in the path of this plasma ejection. A little over 150 years ago we were in the path of a CME named the Carrington event (1859) and lucky for us the damage was minimal.
In 1989 a small scale CME blacked out Quebec, and in 2012 there was an enormous CME, but that one just missed us by about 2 weeks. What would a Carrington scale event look like now? How would our electric grid and society in general handle an event like this?
The answer is unknown, and depends on the magnitude of the coronal mass ejection. What we do know is that most societies cannot function without electricity. Everything we do revolves around electricity in one way or another, from our banking system, to our water supply to the way we get our food.
The White House recently put out an executive order about Coordinating Efforts to Prepare the Nation for Space Weather Events. Here is an excerpt of that…
What is a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection)
Basically, it’s a blob of the sun getting burst into space in the direction of the earth. For a more scientific explanation have a look at this article here.
How long would it take for a CME to reach the earth? And would we be able to prepare? CMEs typically reach Earth one to five days after leaving the Sun. I would assume that the government or NASA would let us know that this was about to happen, because you would think it’s in their best interest to keep the children happy…but I wouldn’t be shocked if the opposite were true.
Even if we do get warning, and have a few days to prepare, I’m not so sure that there is a lot that can be done on a large scale. As individuals, we would be able to protects some of our personal electronics by using Faraday Cages and shielding them, but the electric grid would still be down, and we wouldn’t be able to power them.
SPP175 Preparing For a CME and the After Effects
In the show this week we went into detail about the show !0 Ways the World Will End, and our thoughts on how they did. Here are some of the show notes, but like I always say, listen to the show for more information about all of this.
What Initial Damage Would a CME Do
As I said earlier, it all depends on the magnitude of the CME, if it as large as the Carrington event, the power grid would be toast. The power won’t just go out, there will be a massive power surge meaning everything that is plugged in will be surged, and potentially cause fires.
- Transformers will be toast as well, and they take 2 years to produce. This is especially important because and we have no backups and are only produced in Germany and South Korea. This means the grid could be down for a very long time.
- The fuel rods that power the worlds 400 Nuclear reactors must be kept cool 24 hours a day. These are kept cool by water, water pumped in by electricity. These plants have emergency generators that will last about 72 hours, and then battery systems that will last about a week.
- Cars might become damaged, but contrary to popular belief it is hard to say if automobiles would be completely useless. Although getting fuel for them might be impossible.
- Planes probably wouldn’t just fall from the sky, but runway lights and gps would be gone.
- Critical infrastructure would be affected. Losing the electrical grid could be more deadly than nuclear war.
- The modern food system is completely dependent on electricity. From growing, to harvesting, to transporting, to refrigerating.
- Supermarkets become battlegrounds. We all probably know this, but going to the grocery store could be a life and death situation.
- Cash on hand is just the first problem. The entire banking system is electronic, and it could either be gone, or inaccessible.
- No electric pumps = No running water, and no gasoline and no sewage. disease and sickness could become rampant because of lack of sanitation.
- There would be fires from short circuits from anything electrical. On a small scale this could be our toasters, on a larger scale this could be disastrous.
Would Electronics Not Plugged in Be Affected?
According to Modern Survival Blog:
Short Term Effects of a CME
- A total collapse of civilization. It will literally be every man/woman for themselves. People WILL be fighting for resources, Martial Law WILL be enacted, and most of the population WILL die off.
- The show talks about how people will head out into the woods hunting, and how most people have never been hunting in their lives. This will cause many problems, not to mention the hunter gatherer lifestyle is not sustainable for 320 million people.
- After a couple of weeks, we will basically start devolving into a tribal state. This would literally be a Mad Max/Walking Dead scenario.
- After about 6 weeks people would be drinking from polluted water sources because they had no choice. Human waste, hospital waste, industrial waste back flowing into lakes and rivers.
- Extreme heat and extreme cold will kill people as well.
- The show estimates that the world’s population will be reduced from 7 billion to 2 billion in a little over a month. That means 2 out of 3 people will die because of our dependence on electricity.
In just 1 year, there would be less than 1 billion people still alive across the planet…and that might be a generous guess.
Most of us think about what we would do immediately following some sort of shtf event, and for good reason. We need to be able to survive a year to be able to rebuild afterword’s.
One year after this large CME the remaining people will have fought off bandits, protected their resources and been through more in one year, than they have in their entire life.
Most of the danger would be gone at this point…for the most part, because the only people who survived would be the ones who knew how to survive. Alternative energy, gardening etc.
Groups, communities and small scale infrastructure would form as people started to rebuild.
At this point, all is not lost, it’s just an uphill battle. We have the knowledge; but we just won’t have the resources to do anything on a large scale.