One of the few websites I visit daily, is Spaceweather.com. There’s a good reason for that: there’s a direct relationship between the number of sunspots and the 10cm flux. The higher the flux, the better the conditions on HF generally are, especially on the higher bands. As long as the number of sunspots rises, and the sun doesn’t burp up large Coronal Mass Ejections directed to our planet, we’re a happy bunch of hams. A CME directed to Earth causes a geomagnetic storm, which in turn can cause an HF blackout. If a storm is sever enough, more problems can arise though.
The Carrington Event
Solar cycle 10 was the tenth solar cycle since 1755, when recording of solar sunspot activity began. This cycle lasted 11.3 years, beginning in December 1855 and ending in March 1867. The maximum smoothed sunspot number (monthly number of sunspots averaged over a twelve month period) observed during the solar cycle was 97.3, and the minimum was 5.2. There were a total of approximately 406 days with no sunspots during this cycle.
On September 1–2, 1859, the largest recorded geomagnetic storm on Earth occurred, known as the Carrington Event. Aurorae were seen around the world, most notably over the Caribbean; also noteworthy were those over the Rocky Mountains that were so bright that their glow awoke gold miners, who began preparing breakfast because they thought it was morning. Telegraph systems all over Europe and North America failed. Telegraph pylons threw sparks and telegraph paper spontaneously caught fire. Some telegraph systems appeared to continue to send and receive messages despite having been disconnected from their power supplies. (source: Wikipedia)
According to some the current solar cycle, number 24, resembles cycle 10. A long stretch of spotless says, followed by a not-so-high average number of sunspots, but a totally unexpected high number of flares and CME’s. I wonder what would happen if the sun would spit out a similar super flare today. Would our satellites fail? Would all modern ways of communication fail, such as cell phones and the internet? Would we be out of power for a long time? After all, this happened before, and not too long ago. The answer is, of course, that we don’t know.
The role of hams
Assuming a worst case scenario, would our equipment still work? Would hams become the backbone of the world? We like to think of us that way, as we’re able to communicate under the most difficult circumstances. A car battery will do just fine, or a generator. Some ham shacks are solar powered (mine will be in the near future). Again, we just don’t know. Although I would hate to see everything fail, I must admit that my curiosity wins the battle on many occasions. Shouting “Bring it on!” might not be appropriate, but then again…