Last month, Popular Science published an article suggesting more ways civilization could end in a vicious maelstrom of chaos and mass starvation.
The scenario goes something like this:
The sun would eject a 10-billion ton ball of plasma, known as a coronal mass ejection (CME), which would travel to earth within 18 hours. Once the ball of plasma reached the earth’s atmosphere, its magnetic field would be parallel and opposite to the earth’s. As a result, charged particles, which the earth’s magnetic field normally blocks, would enter the earth’s atmosphere.
By Faraday’s law of induction, this massive influx of magnetically charged particles would generate massive surges of electrical current throughout the power grid, likely shutting it down. It would also damage or destroy critical electrical equipment like transformers, which take up to two years to replace.
Almost every device with an electric circuit would be rendered inert.
Hundreds of aircraft would literally fall out of the sky, or collide, as their navigation systems failed, and the air traffic control network went off-line.
Within a month, most food would spoil, water pumps keeping bacteria-infested waste from our drinking water would fail, and nuclear power plants would face the risk of meltdown once their diesel backup generators went off-line.
The scary part is that CMEs can occur at any time. The most famous CME was the so-called Carrington Event of 1859, in which “electrical discharges in the U.S. shocked telegraph operators and set their machines on fire.”
Yes, space weather did that.