Space weather expert has ominous forecast

Mike Hapgood, who studies solar events, says the world isn’t prepared for a truly damaging storm. And one could happen soon.

A stream of highly charged particles from the sun is headed straight toward Earth, threatening to plunge cities around the world into darkness and bring the global economy screeching to a halt.

A massive explosion on the sun's surface has triggered the largest solar radiation storm since 2005, hurling charged particles at Earth. (NASA / May 4, 2012)

This isn’t the premise of the latest doomsday thriller. Massive solar storms have happened before — and another one is likely to occur soon, according to Mike Hapgood, a space weather scientist at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford, England.

Much of the planet’s electronic equipment, as well as orbiting satellites, have been built to withstand these periodic geomagnetic storms. But the world is still not prepared for a truly damaging solar storm, Hapgood argues in a recent commentary published in the journal Nature.

Hapgood talked with The Times about the potential effects of such a storm and how the world should prepare for it.

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