Faced with the prospect of a massive solar flare that could destroy satellites, spacecraft, and vital telecommunications systems, the White House National Science and Technology Council has released plans to protect vital systems from being devastated, reports Business Insider.
According to the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center, the Earth is constantly being bombarded with charged subatomic particles, traveling on solar winds, that can normally be deflected by the planet’s magnetic field.
However scientists warn that there is a 12 percent chance of Earth being hit with a mammoth solar storm in the next decade that could wreak over $2 trillion dollars in economic damage.
“You can think of the sun as kind of like a volcano,” explained Thomas Berger, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) “It’s difficult to predict precisely when it’s going to erupt, but you can see the signs building up.”
While scientists admit they can’t stop the solar discharge, a distant early warning system can relay information of the oncoming solar storm at the speed of light, allowing delicate systems to be shut down before being destroyed.
The NOAA will soon replace an antiquated satellite — similar to a “tsunami buoy” — with a Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite (DSCOVR) at a midway point between Earth and the sun. At the first sign of a major solar flare, DSCOVR will notify Earth up to an hour before the planet is bombarded by with particles.
“Using that we can say … ‘OK we know exactly how big this thing is and how bad it’s going to be,'” Berger explained.
Under the plan developed by the National Science and Technology Council, various departments have been directed to establish benchmarks, “creating engineering standards, developing vulnerability assessments, establishing decision points and thresholds for action, understanding risk, developing more effective mitigation procedures and practices, and enhancing response and recovery planning.”
The U.S. isn’t the only country taking threat of a massive solar outburst seriously. Thursday the European Space Agency (ESA) announced they are working with scientists from 14 European countries to develop their own network.