Dodging (Yet Another) Cosmic Bullet
Vol: 113 Issue: 21 Monday, February 21, 2011
I would think that everybody knows the children’s story about the boy who cried “Wolf!” just so he could see everyone come running to his rescue.
After the first few times, the response grew less aggressive and finally, people stopped responding altogether.
Then the wolf showed up for real. Nobody listened. And the wolf ate the little boy. (The first time I heard the story, I thought it served him right.)
I looked back through our archives and the first time I could find where we repeated a government warning of damaging solar storm activity was way back in October 2003.
Larry Combs, a forecaster with the NOAA Space Environment Center’s Space Weather Operations, said that this region has developed rapidly over the last three to four days. “It’s somewhat unusual to have this much activity when we’re approximately three-and-a-half years past solar maximum,” he said. “In fact, just last week, solar activity was very low with an almost spotless sun.”
Unusual was a good way to describe it. The sun operates according to eleven year cycles that range from the self-explanatory solar minimum and maximum periods.
The solar minimum began in 2000 after a solar maximum period that began by knocking out the Quebec power grid in 1989. Solar storms fried orbiting satellites, disrupted communications and caused sporadic power interruptions in 1994, 1997 and 1998.
Another storm in July 2000 put several satellites temporarily out of contact and caused navigation problems in others. But those were all during the solar maximum. The October 2003 event was during a solar minimum — baffling astronomers.
The sun erupted three more times in less than 24 hours, bringing the number of major eruptions to nine in less than two weeks. Scientists have been monitoring the solar cycles since 1755. There has never been a string of activity like this.
Early Monday, Paal Brekke, deputy project manager of the SOHO spacecraft, was still digesting the significance of the three additional outbursts on top of two back-to-back monster flares Oct. 28 and 29.
“I think the last week will go into the history books as one of the most dramatic periods of solar activity we have seen in modern time,” Brekke told SPACE.com.
On Thursday, NASA issued warnings that the most powerful solar storm in four years was about to hit earth, with the potential to cause catastrophic damage to the terrestrial electrical grid. But it came and went without major problems.
Despite its strength, Monday’s solar storm was a baby compared to several previous blasts, and it provides just a hint of what the sun is capable of.
This past weekend’s event was nothing compared with the “Carrington Event” of 1859.
The 1859 storm shorted out telegraph wires, causing fires in North America and Europe, and spawned spectacular auroras — the light shows visible near Earth’s poles — bright enough to read by, according to some accounts.
If the 1859 storm occurred these days, it would likely have devastating impacts, since our electrical and communications infrastructures are so much more developed. A recent report by the U.S National Academy of Sciences found that such a severe storm could cause up to $2 trillion in initial damages by crippling communications on Earth and fueling chaos around the world.
It might take up to 10 years for authorities to re-assert control and get everything fixed, the report concluded. For comparison, Hurricane Katrina likely inflicted somewhere between $80 billion and $125 billion in damage.
(Oh no! The Middle East is going up in flames, Iranian warships are in the Suez Canal and he’s going to talk about solar flares again?)
Umm, yes. In terms of Bible prophecy, this is a very, very big deal. Bigger than anything that might take place across the Middle East.
It is potentially a bigger deal than if the United States defaulted on its national debt. It is a bigger deal than an all-out war in the Middle East.
It is potentially a bigger deal than any other threat that now faces Western civilization. It is potentially a bigger deal than anything we’ve ever seen in terms of natural disasters. It is a much bigger deal than even the most dire projections about global warming.
Even Al Gore couldn’t over-emphasize the danger.
To my way of thinking, there are a number of major reasons why these solar events are among the most important prophetic signs that the Lord is about to return. The first is the timing.
It began during the last solar maximum of the sixth millennium. Recall how Paul Brekke described the first solar minimum of the seventh millennium.
“I think the last week will go into the history books as one of the most dramatic periods of solar activity we have seen in modern time.”
Then there is the issue of vulnerability. At no time in the history of mankind from the time of Adam up to this day has the earth been more vulnerable to solar activity than it is today.
It is estimated that a storm on the scale of the 1989 storm that knocked out the Quebec grid would be many times worse today, thanks to an infrastructure that is already overloaded.
The length of the wires criss-crossing the country is some ten times what it was in 1989. And the longer the wire, the more damage a solar-generated surge can do.
So we have the timing and we have the vulnerability issues. Both are unique to this generation to the exclusion of all others.
Nowhere near finally, but most importantly, I think, is the fact that of all the various disasters and potential disasters that face humankind, this is totally beyond any human capacity to either predict or affect.
When the sun kicks out a big enough flare, there is nothing we can do about it. Mankind can’t cause a solar flare. If it is strong enough, we can’t shield ourselves from a solar flare.
There is nothing we can really do to mitigate the damage once it has happened. And there is nothing facing this planet that has a greater potential for casualties.
“And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.” (Luke 21:25-26)
Of all the Bible prophecies for the last days, this is the most specific and the one for which there is absolutely no historical parallel. It has never happened before and it can never happen again.
It is unique to THIS generation.
Never before has the entire world been this aware of both the threat and our vulnerability to it. Not only are all our incredible technological advances useless in our defense, it is those technological advances that are responsible for our vulnerability.
It is terrifying. We are pretty much helpless. But we’re not crying ‘Wolf’. As NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco told Gizmodo over the weekend,
“This is not a matter of if, it’s simply a matter of when and how big.”
We are distressed and perplexed on a global basis. The fear of those things coming upon the earth is almost palpable – it is literally the powers of heaven that are responsible for the threat.
There has never been anything even remotely similar in the history of the human race.
And it is only two verses later, when Jesus says:
“When THESE things begin to come to pass, then look up and lift up your heads for your redemption draws nigh.’ (Luke 21:28)