The EMP Threat: Sending America Back To The 1800s

Tyler Durden's picture

Previously, Elliott Management's Paul Singer has explained that he believes "there is one risk that stands way above the rest in terms of the scope of potential damage adjusted for the likelihood of occurrence" - an electromagnetic pulse (EMP). Today we dig deeper into that risk...


Submitted by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse blog,

Our entire way of life can be ended in a single day.  And it wouldn’t even take a nuclear war to do it.  All it would take for a rogue nation or terror organization to bring us to our knees is the explosion of a couple well-placed nuclear devices high up in our atmosphere.  The resulting electromagnetic pulses would fry electronics from coast to coast.  Of course this could also be accomplished without any attack.  Scientists tell us that massive solar storms have hit our planet before, and that it is inevitable that there will be more in the future.  As you will read about below, the most recent example of this was “the Carrington Event” in 1859.  If a similar burst from the sun hit us today, experts tell us that life in America could suddenly resemble life in the 1800s, and the economic damage caused could potentially be in the trillions of dollars.  This is one of the greatest potential threats that we are facing as a nation, and yet Barack Obama has essentially done nothing to get us prepared.

The technology necessary to conduct such an electromagnetic pulse attack against the United States has become much more accessible in recent years.  According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, even rogue nations such as North Korea and Iran either already have or will soon have the capability to hurt us in this way…

Rogue nations such as North Korea (and possibly Iran) will soon match Russia and China and have the primary ingredients for an EMP attack: simple ballistic missiles such as Scuds that could be launched from a freighter near our shores; space-launch vehicles able to loft low-earth-orbit satellites; and simple low-yield nuclear weapons that can generate gamma rays and fireballs.

If a successful, large scale EMP attack ever did take place, it would be a catastrophe beyond anything that the United States has ever seen before.  The EMP Commission, which was established by Congress, says that it is likely that most of us would end up dead

What would a successful EMP attack look like? The EMP Commission, in 2008, estimated that within 12 months of a nationwide blackout, up to 90% of the U.S. population could possibly perish from starvation, disease and societal breakdown.


In 2009 the congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States, whose co-chairmen were former Secretaries of Defense William Perry and James Schlesinger, concurred with the findings of the EMP Commission and urged immediate action to protect the electric grid. Studies by the National Academy of Sciences, the Department of Energy, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the National Intelligence Council reached similar conclusions.

If you are a terrorist, a dictator or a fanatic that is looking for a “killshot” for the United States, those kinds of numbers would certainly get your attention.

And it was recently reported by WND that the Iranian military has already been playing around with such a scenario…

Peter Vincent Pry, who is executive director of a congressional advisory group called the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, raised the alarm as the agreement is about to be finalized.


He said U.S. military officials have confirmed such an Iranian plan.


“Iranian military documents describe such a scenario – including a recently translated Iranian military textbook that endorses nuclear EMP attack against the United States,” Pry wrote in a recent column in Israel’s main online media network, Aruz Sheva.


“Iran with a small number of nuclear missiles can by EMP attack threaten the existence of modernity and be the death knell of Western principles of international law, humanism and freedom,” he said.

Very chilling stuff.

And of course there are many, many others out there that would love to see the U.S. taken down other than just the Iranians.

Meanwhile, our power grid is far more vulnerable than most Americans would dare to imagine.

In previous articles, I discussed a recent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission report which stated the following…

“Destroy nine interconnection substations and a transformer manufacturer and the entire United States grid would be down for at least 18 months, probably longer.”

Are you starting to get the picture?

Our entire way of life depends upon electricity.  If you take away that electricity, our society is transformed literally overnight.

A successful EMP would be an utter nightmare for this nation.  Just consider what U.S. Representative Scott Perry had to say about a potential attack last year

The consequences of such an attack could be catastrophic; all electronics, power systems, and information systems could be shut down,” Rep. Scott Perry said in prepared remarks during an EMP hearing in May held by the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security. “This could then cascade into interdependent infrastructures such as water, gas, and telecommunications.


While we understand this is an extreme case, we must always be prepared in case a rogue state decides to utilize this technology.”

In essence, suddenly nothing would work and just about everything that we take for granted would suddenly be gone.

In a previous article, I spelled out some of the implications of such an event…

-There would be no heat for your home.
-Water would no longer be pumped into most homes.
-Your computer would not work.
-There would be no Internet.
-Your phones would not work.
-There would be no television.
-There would be no radio.
-ATM machines would be shut down.
-There would be no banking.
-Your debit cards and credit cards would not work.
-Without electricity, most gas stations would not be functioning.
-Most people would be unable to do their jobs without electricity and employment would collapse.
-Commerce would be brought to a standstill.
-Hospitals would not be able to function normally.
-You would quickly start running out of medicine.
-All refrigeration would shut down and frozen foods in our homes and supermarkets would start to go bad.

And as I mentioned above, all of this can happen even without an attack.

A direct hit from a major solar storm can cause the exact same thing.

In fact, NASA says that there is a 12 percent chance that such a storm will hit us during the next ten years…

NASA is warning that there’s a 12 percent chance an extreme solar storm will hit Earth in the next decade, sending out massive shock waves that would knock out grids across the world.


The economic impact of this doomsday scenario could exceed $2 trillion — or 20 times the cost of Hurricane Katrina, according to the National Academy of Sciences.

In recent years, we have been really lucky.

There was a close call in 2012 and another one in 2013.

The following is an excerpt from an upcoming book that I have co-authored with Barbara Fix that will soon be published entitled “Get Prepared Now”…

Most people have absolutely no idea that the Earth barely missed being fried by a massive EMP burst from the sun in 2012 and in 2013. And earlier in 2014 there was another huge solar storm which would have caused tremendous damage if it had been directed at our planet. If any of those storms would have directly hit us, the result would have been catastrophic. Electrical transformers would have burst into flames, power grids would have gone down and much of our technology would have been fried. In essence, life as we know it would have ceased to exist – at least for a time. These kinds of solar storms have hit the Earth many times before, and experts tell us that it is inevitable that it will happen again. The most famous one happened in 1859, and was known as the Carrington Event. But other than the telegraph, humanity had very little dependence on technology at the time. If another Carrington Event happened today, it would be a complete and utter nightmare. A study by Lloyd’s of London has concluded that it would have taken a $2,600,000,000,000 chunk out of the global economy, and it would take up to a decade to repair the damage. Unfortunately, scientists insist that it is going to happen at some point. The only question is when.

So keep an eye on the sun.

The giant ball of fire that we revolve around has started to behave very erratically, and it has the power to end our way of life at any time.

In fact, scientists tell us that we are about to get hit with a “glancing blow” on April 7th…

A filament of magnetism stretching halfway across the sun erupted during the late hours of April 4th (22:00-23:00 UT). The eruption split the sun’s atmosphere, hurling a CME into space and creating a “canyon of fire,” shown in a movie recorded by the Solar Dynamics Observatory: The glowing walls of the canyon trace the original channel where the filament was suspended by magnetic forces above the sun’s surface. From end to end, the structure stretches more than 300,000 km–a real Grand Canyon.


Fragments of the exploding filament formed the core of a CME that raced away from the sun at approximately 900 km/s (2 million mph): image. Most of the CME will miss Earth, but not all. The cloud is expected to deliver a a glancing blow to our planet’s magnetic field could on April 7th. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras.

The event of April 7th is not going to cause us major problems.  But someday there will be a solar storm that will.

Personally, I cannot even imagine what life would be like without electricity.

Because we have become so deeply dependent on technology, most of us would have absolutely no idea how to live without it.

An electromagnetic pulse attack would be one of the fastest ways to cripple America and end the dominance of the United States in world affairs.  And in this day and age, there are hundreds of millions of people around the planet that would love to see that happen.

So to not take steps to protect our power grid from such an attack is very foolish.  But that is precisely what Barack Obama (and presidents before him) have chosen to do.  We have technology which would mitigate the damage from an electromagnetic pulse, but rather than spend the money Obama has decided to just hope that it will never happen.

Up to this point, we have been fortunate.

But someday, our luck may run out.

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_ConanTheLibertarian_'s picture

First comment? DAFUQ ?!

kliguy38's picture

Nature's law will be obeyed...........winter's comin' 

Divine Wind's picture




I shudder to think of all the Apple FanBoys in their skinny jeans running around looking for somewhere to
charge their iPhones so they can call the power company to report the outage.


DeadFred's picture

Counter party risk is a bitch in this scenario

ZerOhead's picture

On a more positive note... you will be able to read a newspaper outside during what used to be night and the "Global Warming" crowd will be celibrating the planet's escape from thermageddon...

Macchendra's picture

"In the world I see – you're stalking elk through the damp canyon forests around the ruins of Rockefeller Center. You'll wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life. You'll climb the wrist-thick kudzu vines that wrap the Sears Tower. And when you look down, you'll see tiny figures pounding corn, laying strips of venison on the empty car pool lane of some abandoned superhighway."

ZerOhead's picture

Heck... we're going to get there soon anyway... EMP or no EMP...

Stuck on Zero's picture

We're not as vulnerable to EMP as you might think.  Our transmission system takes 100K joule lightning strikes tens of thousands of times each year and is back in less than a cycle.  Most industrial systems are built to withstand nearby lightning strikes.  Mind you, lightning still causes billions of dollars in damage each year. 

MalteseFalcon's picture

Everybody has been so hyped about security these past 13 years.


OK.  Let's get rid of 'the grid'.

wee-weed up's picture



EMP? Devastating? You better believe it...

And how much you wanna bet it will be the Obozo-enabled Iranians who eventually do it to us!

All it takes is a boat (surface or just under water) off our coast as a launch platform.

No long-range missile needed - what they already have will do...

Just reach a hundred miles or so inland and reach the proper altitude. And then BOOM!

So simple!

bankrun's picture

EMP? A much more devastating and simple attack would be to disable EBT long term. Imagine 50 million starving, pissed off, and entitled mother fuckers raping an pillaging. Seriously, taking down EBT systems nationally would create way more chaos than leaving everyone equally in the dark.

Sovereign Economist's picture

Domestic EBT vs EMP:  Less Radiation, More MAYHEM!!!!

SilverIsKing's picture

So whaddya think, a major EMP would be good for a 1,000 point increase on the Dow? That's what I'm thinking.

cossack55's picture

Zombie apocalypse.  The zombies will be all the mush-heads wandering around holding their iphones looking for a charging-station/signal.  They will wander until the expire.

Calling William Banzai7

Arnold's picture

I call out a micro aggressive attack, leaving both left coasts intact in the Graphic associated with this article.

knukles's picture

Where cans I still gets my EBT cards refilled, Yo?

zhandax's picture

Iran?  I assume this is yet another example of the hysterical shrieking of the war party that Stockman alluded to?

Paveway IV's picture

"...And how much you wanna bet it will be the Obozo-enabled Iranians who eventually do it to us!..."

The Iranians? Do you mean the Iranians with the imaginary useable nuclear weapon in six months for the last fifteen years? I'll take that bet. The Mossad is even on my side - Iran is nowhere near building a useable weapon.

And that imaginary weapon if and when it existed would be a low-yield single-stage fission bomb at best. Sorry, but you need 100 kT or better for a decent, widespread EMP. That would be a multi-stage hydrogen fusion bomb. Iran would be at that point about fifteen or twenty years AFTER they perfected their imaginary single-stage fission weapons. 

"...All it takes is a boat (surface or just under water) off our coast as a launch platform..."

Nope. Sorry, but that's not how an EMP nuke works. It needs to be at least 120,000 ft. or so for a state-sized effect and at least 300,000 ft. up for a regional effect like the one shown in the diagram in this article. You need a rocket to get that high. That's for a full-effect, true three wave EMP. It depends on properties of the upper atmospheric layers to produce the full EMP effect. The E3 or MHD wave is the one that penetrates the ground and induces current in buried cables and pipeline. That's the wave that would take out the electrical grid, and it can only be produced by an upper-atmosphere shot. 

An EMP from a ship-borne weapon or a ship-launched SCUD would only be single-wave (E1 - the one that fries chips, processors and memory) and the effect is only at the city-level - like tens of miles. It does not need to be nuclear - in fact, that would be a waste of a nuclear weapon. Most people effected would all ready be dead from the blast and radiation, including everyone on the ship. Conventional explosives can be used just fine to create that type of an localized EMP weapon. Since Iran would be destroyed if they tried this, I'm guessing they're not going to try. If it ever did happen, it would be an Israeli ship painted like an Iranian one and we would find pristine Iranian passports, an Iranian flag and Iranian EMP schematics washed up on the shoreline immediately afterwards. 

"...Just reach a hundred miles or so inland and reach the proper altitude. And then BOOM!..."

Which would still require a decent-sized sub-orbital nuclear ballistic missile to get that high. The only nations that have a powerful enough nuclear warhead and appropriate missiles are the big six. Iran isn't in the club and will most likely NEVER be in either of our lifetimes.

"...So simple!..."

The big six can pretty much launch them from their own countries since they're intercontinental. Which would result in a retalitory strike by the U.S. before anyone's missiles ever got near U.S. territory. Which means the initial EMP attack would be by a country going full-retard and would necessarily involve a launch of their entire fleet of nuclear missiles because any that were not launched would be destroyed in the U.S. counter-attack. The 'simple' part is that mutually-assured destruction has been an effective deterrent so far.

SilverIsKing's picture

Yeah but what about the sun? What do you have to say about that?

cossack55's picture

Well, the neocons, led by Johnie & Lindsay Baby, will want to declare war on the sun and do at least a partial land-based nuke launch to destroy it.

Paveway IV's picture

We're overdue now for a once-in-a-century Carrington. If the quadrant of the earth hit by it has nuclear power plants, then everyone in the Northern Hemisphere will have a lot more to piss their pants about then their bricked iPhone. 

blindfaith's picture



At last, some one who actually has a clue about what they write.  The problem with facts, data, and science is it never wins when it faces 'core beliefs'.  The nay-sayers with pan you and they will be the ones believed to be smarter and better informed, while you stand frustrated that the masses can be so damn stupid.

As far as a solar EMP is concerned, the one from 1800 went 3 miles into the earth.  No bunker is that deep, so no electronics will survive.  The blast was so strong that it blew up the batteries on trains, it burnt telegraph wires in half.  We are comforted by facts that are not told to us...nothing to see here...move on.  No man made blast could do that, at least from what is know right now.

That Zombie research paper, well may be it has some teeth after all.

angryBuddhist's picture

To the idiot that said that a solar EMP is no big deal, you are a complete fool. Sure, lightning strikes our power grid everyday but imagine our grid being hit by a thousand years worth of lightning all at once. That is what the power of a solar EMP would be like and yes it would totally and completely destroy everything electrical no matter where it is located. There is no surviving this w/o decending into a zombie apocalypse. The only thing it wouldn't fry would be hand pump wells, shotgun shells, paper books and anything old school in terms of technology.

Calmyourself's picture

What, big 6, your smarter than that.  Pakistan could laucnh a 3 stage emp attack tomorrow, N. horea assuming they have worked out a warhead sufficiently the next day...

angel_of_joy's picture

You might want to look up your physics book. Particularly the chapter about electromagnetic fields and self-inductance. A lightning strike has didly squat to do with that...

Excursionist's picture

I vaguely recall during my EE days looking into the physics of an EMP and thinking, "Huh.. seems overblown.  If an electronic device is turned off during a pulse, then no harm to the device."  But it's been almost two decades, and I honestly can't speak even semi-intelligently about the subject.

stacking12321's picture

yeah, ok, good one, linking to an article written by "Yousaf M. Butt"

do you have any source references by "Rod W. Longjohnson"? because i find his writings more credible.

Paveway IV's picture

Yousaf Butt

Butt is a research professor and scientist-in-residence at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute for International Studies. Previously, Butt was a scientific consultant to the Federation of American Scientists and a physicist in the High-Energy Astrophysics Division at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He was on the instrument operations team responsible for the main focal plane instrument aboard NASA's orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory from 1999-2004. He has also been a fellow in the Committee on International Security and Arms Control at the National Academy of Sciences and a research fellow in the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

I'm sure he's heard plenty of clever comments like yours... back in the sixth grade. My reply was to Excursionist - an intelligent poster that I'll assume is interested in the article's more technical EMP details and isn't distracted in the least by the author's 'funny' name.

stacking12321's picture

getting all defensive and feeling the need to list the guy's official "qualifications"?

well, fuck, some people just can't take a joke :P


TBT or not TBT's picture

That is a very different problem, lightning, in power systems.   EMP induces enormous currents over quite a lot longer time spans.  Also, go check out the break down voltage of the field oxide in CMOS integrated circuits and get back to me.  EMP hits every EMF frequency with energy, and so hits vulblnerable resonant frequencies of nearly any circuit.   Poof.   Lighting arrestors notwithstanding.  

MayIMommaDogFace2theBananaPatch's picture

They should remake "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble" as "The Boy in the Copper Faraday Cage".

weburke's picture

The former Director of Central Intelligence, R. James Woolsey, Jr, lives in a home that is built to survive -off the grid. Near DC, he has solar power ect and says we could lose power for a year, and 90 percent would die. He is planning with that in mind.

Paveway IV's picture

At least there's some small comfort in knowing that Woolsey will die a slow, agonizing death from the clouds of radiation released by the dozens of melted-down nuclear reactors just like us little people ON the grid when it goes down. And this doesn't have to be in the U.S.  If a dozen European or Russian or Chinese reactors are taken out by an EMP, the entire Northern Hemisphere touched by the jet stream will be subject to radioactive rain washouts for months and months, and you will lose AT LEAST two seasons of crops, livestock and poultry in regions affected by the EMP, and anything that does live will be contaminated.

EMPs - natural or man-made - are a 'beyond design basis event'. Nuclear plants are designed to survive a loss of off-site power, but are not designed to survive a loss of off-site power AND simultaneously have most of the plant's internal electrical system or digital controls destroyed, including the backup generators and switching systems. Of course, with no power, TV, internet or radios post-EMP, you'll have no idea of the catastrophy unfolding a few hundred miles upwind and the government won't bother telling you. You'll have to resort to direct observation of acute radiation exposure to determine if there was a nuclear accident. That means unstoppable nosebleeds, coughing up blood or noticing when clumps of hair start falling off of you and your kids' heads. No need to worry about the exact dose you got - by that point you're toast.

SilverIsKing's picture

Now that everyone knows the party is going to be at Woolsey's house, he's got to share his beer with everyone.

Urban Redneck's picture

You might have the place all to yourself.  Last time I checked Bob Woolsey lived in Palisades (northwest DC), and he's in no condition to swim the Potomac River to get to a bug out location.  In the event of an EMP- even a working car will be no use to people on the wrong side of the bridge chokepoints in DC- because they will be impassable due all the disabled vehicles stalled on them.

Motasaurus's picture

Of course he is. The ability to protect yourself from this is so prohibitively expensive that only those who are planning to carry it out can afford to survive it. 

Of course they always have their fallback plan of a nuclear war to kill of 7Billion people, but then that leaves so much land uninhabitable and "they" don't get to watch people tearing each other apart. 

August's picture

I do hope that Amurica's ravening, implacable foes take out NY and DC first, like, you know, as a warning.

Refuse-Resist's picture

But we already have the LBGTXYZ boys in the social justice bubble.

sessinpo's picture

Stuck on Zero    We're not as vulnerable to EMP as you might think.  Our transmission system takes 100K joule lightning strikes tens of thousands of times each year and is back in less than a cycle.  Most industrial systems are built to withstand nearby lightning strikes.  Mind you, lightning still causes billions of dollars in damage each year.


What you miss is that while a transmission system might be able to handle it, your electric and electronic stuff at home won't. Did your GE or whatever product prepare for an EMP? I think not.

Thus your automobile will become dead. Your refrigator, oven, stove, clothes washer and dryer, dish washer, your home lighting, your heating and air conditioning all are dead.


You're actually correct! You knOw that the sat (Thanks to Al Gore and Elon Musk and the USAF and NASA) due to arrive this June at L1 will give us about an hours heads up on incoming, right? We still have a bit of resilience, right? + and a quasi-screensaver ; )

Now could we get back to AGW and The Sixth Mass Extinction please? TIA


Urban Redneck's picture

^^^ And this is what the serfs who parrot the proposal of the oligarchs peddaling "EMP protection" snake oil fail to understand.  Any solution that does not protect the "last mile" to citizens'/serfs' homes and workplaces merely reinforces the State's control mechanisms while still leaving hundreds of millions to starve in the dark of a zombie apocaplypse.  

ReasonForLife's picture

Back to the Future Part IV!  Finally!

Hobo Sapien's picture

On a long enough timeline, the electricity bill for everyone drops to zero.

813kml's picture

Only until HMOs mandate life support for eternity.

Abitdodgie's picture

It's not the EMP that's the problem it s the power station melt down and the nuke auto launch sytem that s the real problem.

max2205's picture

90% of Americans only have $20 in their bank account so there's 270 million  gone in a week.


So peaceful 

chilli sauce's picture
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A Lunatic's picture

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