The Cranky Sun Could Interrupt Your Service – Just about a week ago, Wired Magazine had an piece about how a bad solar storm could negatively impact the internet. This article was in response to a presentation at the SIGCOMM 2021 data communication conference by Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi from the University of California, Irvine.
I’ll be damned, but it appears Sangeetha and Wired jinxed us! According to the National Weather Service’s Space Weather Prediction Center, two solar storms occurred last week on August 28th which the NOAA forecasters warned could result in geomagnetic solar storms on Sept 1st and 2nd.
Sangeetha’s prediction was that it would take storms of more significant magnitude than those predicted in this last round to disrupt internet service by impacting the large under-sea cables connecting the continents. However, these same solar storms could have impact on wireless communications networks of all sorts. From your satellite TV service to your cellular service, wireless networks are electromagnetic fields by nature. The introduction of large geomagnetic disturbances would surely impact not just our electrical grid and internet infrastructure, but also impact wireless infrastructure.
The forecast severity of the storms possible are R1 (minor) or R2 (moderate), which translates into degraded or limited blackouts of radio communications on sunlit sides of the earth, with loss of radio contact for up to tens of minutes. But if one of these storms were to escalate to an R3 (strong), we could see wide area blackouts for radio communications systems with loss of contact for an hour or more. Heaven forbit we experience an R4 (severe) or R5 (extreme) storm. That could impact maritime and aviation systems, satellite navigation errors, or worse.
So if you drop a few calls or can’t seem to live stream that video on your phone this week, it might be the Cranky Sun, so give your service provider a little slack.