The Damage is Widespread
It isn’t just power grids that fall prey to these blasts from space. On June 4, 1989, in the midst of a huge solar storm, a gas pipeline in Russia exploded, destroying part of the Trans Siberian Railroad and killing 500 people.
The geomagnetic, solar storm caused by the CME had set up currents in the pipeline that ignited the gas.
And then there are our satellites. They are particularly prone to damage by CMEs, because the high energy electrons can knock out circuits, and scramble guidance and control systems. A number of satellites have been disabled over the years by CMEs. Weather and communication satellites have been disabled often.
The astronauts on the ISS are not immune to danger either. Besides plasma and electrons, CMEs send dangerous radiation our way. The ISS has shielded compartments they can retreat to for safety—if they have sufficient warning.
Airlines divert flights from the poles during CMEs because the geomagnetic disruption, and the possible disruption of navigation satellites, which can affect navigation. The radiation could also be a danger to passengers and crew.
CMEs are not the only danger our Sun sends our way. There are also solar flares. We’ll see what danger lurks there in Part 2.