Solar storms could be more powerful than previously assumed, technology at risk - study

A handout picture shows Coronal Mass Ejection as viewed by the Solar Dynamics Observatory on June 7, 2011. The Sun unleashed an M-2 (medium-sized) solar flare, an S1-class (minor) radiation storm and a spectacular coronal mass ejection (CME) on June 7, 2011 from sunspot complex 1226-1227. The large cloud of particles mushroomed up and fell back down looking as if it covered an area of almost half the solar surface. The sun is entering a more active phase due to peak in 2013 on a roughly 11-year sunspot cycle, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said. Power supplies, air traffic control, communications and satellites can all be disrupted by storms. Picture taken June 7, 2011.   REUTERS/NASA/SDO/Handout (SCI TECH) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. MANDATORY CREDIT - RTR2NGZR

Powerful solar storms may be more common than previously thought, according to a study that found two massive storms hit Earth 219 years apart. They were several times stronger than previously recorded ones. Such storms could wreak havoc on technology.

After studying ancient ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica, researchers at Lund University in Sweden found that the two solar storms hit Earth more than 1,000 years ago – the “red crucifix” storm in AD 774/775 and another in AD 993/994.

The study follows the work of researchers in 2012, when they found traces of a rapid increase of radioactive carbon in tree rings from those time periods. The 774/775 event corresponded with a text in an ancient Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which referred to a “red crucifix” appearing in the heavens after a sunset. read more