The Devastating Impact of an Electromagnetic Pulse…Can it Happen?


Steve Shenk

While driving home from work, your engine suddenly dies.  You quickly shift into neutral and coast to a stop.  As you reach for your cellphone to call for help, you notice that all of the other cars are stopped too.  As this surreal scene unfolds before your eyes, you notice that the cell phone is dead too.

What you haven’t yet realized, but are soon to discover, is that ALL of the modern conveniences upon which your life depends have suddenly and completely vanished.  ALL of them.

Electromagnetic pulses are huge outbursts of atmospheric electricity which produce intense magnetic fields that can result in ground currents massive enough to burn out power lines and electrical equipment throughout the effected area.

The two main sources for EMP are super-sized solar storms and atomic weapons.

An atomic weapon detonated between 25 and 500 miles above earth could wipe out most electrical devices and the power grid.

On July 9, 1962, the Atomic Energy Commission detonated a 1.4-megaton Hydrogen Bomb resulting EMP shorted out streetlights in Oahu, Luckily,it left the electronic grid intact.

Our sun has an eleven year solar cycle which is due to hit It’s maximum activity level in 2012.  Solar flares could wipe out the power grid for years and possibly decades.

The last solar storm large enough to cause that kind of damage occurred in 1859.

Yousaf Butt of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts says, “We are almost guaranteed a very large solar storm at some point”.  Solar physicist Bruce Tsurutani, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory agrees that such an event is inevitable in the next 10 to 100 years.

What can we do to prepare for such an event?

People can protect electronic equipment by constructing a metallic shielded enclosure, commonly called a “faraday cage”  to protect such items as, an emergency, hand-crank radio; solar panels; batteries and spare electronic parts.

Eliminating the occurrence of an EMP, or any other catastrophe, is not within your power but insuring that, no matter what happens, you and you’re family have enough to eat, certainly is.

The most important and least expensive thing anyone can do to prepare  for any emergency, is to have a supply of storable food and a source  of clean water.  So stop worrying about the things you can’t control  and take responsibility for your greatest dependency, food.  Do it today!

Q & A

Q 1.)  There’s a lot of talk these days about the potential for an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) and the effects it might have on our world.  Is the possibility of an EMP something about which we should be concerned?

A 1.)  Well George, you know me, I believe we should all be prepared for whatever mother nature sends our way.  In the case of EMP, yes, we  should be concerned and there are things we can do to prepare.  The  important thing is that we take our “concern” and direct it  constructively rather than getting stuck in fear.  The best way to do  that is to understand the phenomenon and then determine the steps that  can be taken to lessen it’s impact.  Here’s a simple explanation of  EMP…

Electromagnetic pulses are huge outbursts of atmospheric electricity  which produce intense magnetic fields that can result in ground  currents massive enough to burn out power lines and electrical  equipment throughout the effected area.  Any unshielded electronic  equipment is rendered instantly useless.  That includes our power  grids, electronic ignition in cars and other machinery, generators,  solar panels, cell phones, satellite communications, refrigerators,  water pumps, fuel pumps, and just about anything you can imagine that  requires electricity.

Q 2.)  Wow, that sounds as if it could be catastrophic!  Please  explain how something like that could happen.  What would have to  happen to produce an Electromagnetic Pulse?

A 2.)  Well George, there are two sources for an Electromagnetic Pulse.  The first is an EMP caused by a nuclear detonation and the second is an EMP caused by a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), more commonly known as a sun-spot.

Although both are cause for concern, I believe that the first is less likely than we are led to believe by the mainstream media.  The second source of EMP, the sun, is a greater concern and, in fact, some scientists believe it to be a certainty within the next 10 to 100 years.

Q 3.)  Why is the sun-spot scenario more likely than the nuclear explosion?  It seems to me that our world is pretty unstable politically.  Why aren’t you more concerned about the nuclear option?

A 3.)  On July 9, 1962, the Atomic Energy Commission detonated a 1.4-megaton Hydrogen Bomb, known as the Starfish Prime, over the Pacific ocean, at an altitude of 250 miles, about 900 miles southwest of Hawaii.  The device was at least 70 times more powerful than the bomb detonated over Hiroshima in 1945.  Although the resulting EMP shorted out streetlights in Oahu, it left the electronic grid intact.

While smaller nuclear devices could possibly cause localized EMP damage, rogue nations or terrorists intent on creating an EMP large enough to effect the entire continent of North America, with a high-altitude nuclear blast would require a weapon larger than the Starfish  Prime and a missile large enough to take it at least 25 miles high.

If a nation were to initiate such a launch, it would result in massive nuclear retaliation from America’s current stockpile of 5,000 warheads, many of which are aboard submarines and far away from the EMP effects that would be produced by the blast.  Even if that rogue nation supplied a terrorist group with the weapon and missile rather than launch it themselves, they would still face retaliation as the bombs origins would be quickly determined through nuclear forensics. It would be national suicide and regardless of how fanatical our enemies might be, they are unlikely initiate their own annihilation.

The other, and more likely source of a massive EMP is our own sun.  It has an eleven year cycle of solar storms which is due to hit it’s  maximum activity level in 2012.  During the peak of this cycle, the  occurrence of solar super-storms becomes much more frequent.

Q 4.)  If the sun has an eleven year cycle, why didn’t we have damage from an EMP in 2001, 1990 or 1979?  Has anything changed to make this year more dangerous than past cycles?

A 4.)  The last solar storm large enough to cause that kind of damage occurred in 1859, prior to the existence of the power grid which has only been around for less than 1% of human history.  A super solar-storm of sufficient size has not happened in that time but scientists believe it’s a matter of when, not if.

Yousaf Butt of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts says, “We are almost guaranteed a very large solar storm at some point”.  Solar physicist Bruce Tsurutani, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory agrees that such an event is inevitable in the next 10 to 100 years.

Q 5.)  So Steve, what can people do to prepare for an Electromagnetic Pulse?  Should we expect the government to re-institute the old “duck  and cover” program from the ’50s?

A 5.)  There’s not much that we as individuals can do to protect our power grids.  That will have to be done by the electric utilities, with or without the assistance of government.  However, people can protect themselves from the worst effects of an EMP with minimal  expense and a little pre-planning.

Small items such as emergency, hand-crank radios, computers, spare parts for the electronic ignition system in cars and generators can be protected with a simple, home-made device called a “faraday cage”.

Anyone interested in learning how to build one can visit www.faraday-landing-page.com for detailed instructions.

Sources:

http://www.futurescience.com/emp/emp-protection.html (includes  instructions for building a faraday cage)

http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/2010-10-26-emp_N.htm

http://frontpagemag.com/2012/01/03/the-emp-death-ray/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_flare

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromagnetic_pulse


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