A bad solar storm could cause an “Internet apocalypse”
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A bad solar storm could cause an “Internet apocalypse”

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Enlarge / Even if the power comes back after the next big solar storm, the internet may not. (credit: Jean Claude Moschetti | REA | REDUX)

Scientists have known for decades that an extreme solar storm, or coronal mass ejection, could damage electrical grids and potentially cause prolonged blackouts. The repercussions would be felt everywhere from global supply chains and transportation to Internet and GPS access. Less examined until now, though, is the impact such a solar emission could have on Internet infrastructure specifically. New research shows that the failures could be catastrophic, particularly for the undersea cables that underpin the global Internet.

At the SIGCOMM 2021 data communication conference on Thursday, Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi of the University of California, Irvine presented “Solar Superstorms: Planning for an Internet Apocalypse,” an examination of the damage a fast-moving cloud of magnetized solar particles could cause the global Internet. Abdu Jyothi’s research points out an additional nuance to a blackout-causing solar storm: the scenario where even if power returns in hours or days, mass Internet outages persist.

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