An 'internet apocalypse' could take place, leaving the system 'fried' for 'months,' according to a team of researchers.

  • Dec 06, 23

People have been deliberately talking on social media about the possibility of a widespread internet outage caused by a coronal mass ejection. A coronal mass ejection (CME) is so powerful that it can cause a geomagnetic storm that could knock out the internet for months, causing devastation to the economy across the world.


CMEs are eruptions of extremely hot and charged particles from the Sun's corona. These charged particles travel at a speed of millions of miles per hour, and upon contact with the Earth, they interact with our planet's magnetic field, eventually causing geomagnetic storms.


A severe geomagnetic storm can disrupt the overall communication system and satellites, and, in the worst scenario, it could knock out the internet for weeks to months. A Professor at George Mason University describes this scenario as an "internet apocalypse." Becker said: "The internet has come of age during a time when the Sun has been relatively quiet, and now it's entering a more active time.


“It’s the first time in human history that there’s been an intersection of increased solar activity with our dependence on the internet and our global economic dependence on the internet.”


 As a lead investigator on a project with the school and the Naval Research Laboratory to create a warning system, Becker talks about coronal mass ejection (CME), and he believes that we can actually predict this ejection before 18 hours to 24 hours of reaching the Earth.


While explaining the dark scenario of this event, Becker explains that the big blob of plasma flies through space, and when part of it interacts with our planet, it disrupts our magnetic field. In such events, if you drive inductive current to the Earth's surface, it's more likely to work backward, and you'll end up frying things. That you may have thought were relatively safe.


It has happened before. According to a report by Fox Weather, Becker points to the Carrington Event in 1859 (the last time a CME reached our planet).


Having said that, all the power grids, satellites, underground fiber optic cables, GPS systems, and communication equipment are vulnerable to these conditions. And it's not only about the communication; it's a massive economic disruption, too.


These concerns were also fueled by a recent NASA article where they predicted powerful storms that could have disruptive effects on power grids, satellites, and telecommunication. According to Vanessa Thomas, a science writer at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland,  “The risk of geomagnetic storms and devastating effects on our society is presently increasing as we approach the next ‘solar maximum’  — a peak in the Sun’s 11-year activity cycle — which is expected to arrive sometime in 2025.”


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) further reported that the current solar cycle is becoming active at a faster rate than the expert's predictions. Scientists and experts expect an average amount of activity through the rest of the cycle. It means the experts believe it isn't likely to happen. But we've witnessed disruptive effects in recent years, including a 1989 solar storm tha knocked out power in Quebec and another disruptive activity of the Carrington Event (1859) that we've mentioned earlier in this article.


However, NASA is actively working on technology in order to predict such activities. They launched the Parker Space Probe to gather information on solar conditions in 2018. In addition, NASA scientists and some government agencies have been using Artificial intelligence to bring about further advancement in technology that could predict geomagnetic disturbance a half hour before taking place. Such duration could be enough to secure sensitive systems.