Bale unfazed by “internet apocalypse”

In an article on June 28th, the Washington Post tried to allay recent concerns—hyped on social media—about the impact of future solar storms. A typical scary narrative foretells “magnetic fields unleashed by a solar superstorm rip through Earth’s magnetosphere, sending currents surging through human infrastructure...We look up from our phones and computers to catch a glimpse, and the internet as we know it blinks out.” But as Bob Sanders of UC Berkeley observed , SSL’s Stuart Bale is quoted in the article with a cooler head. “The more we know about magnetic reconnection on the sun,” Bale said “the more predictive power it’s going to give us for space weather.”

On Aug. 31, 2012, a long filament of solar material that had been hovering in the sun’s atmosphere, the corona, erupted out into space. The coronal mass ejection, or CME, did not travel directly toward Earth, but did connect with Earth’s magnetic environment, or magnetosphere, causing aurora to appear on the night of Sept 3. (Goddard Space Flight Center/NASA)