Yesterday, a massive US power grid failure was seen across the entire United States in one simultaneous fashion. San Fransisco, New York, and Los Angeles were the three main areas that were hit the hardest. Each of the areas experienced challenges or shut downs in business commerce. Also, basic infrastructure such as communication networks, mass transportation, and supply chains experienced challenges. To many this seemed apocalyptic with anaylst citing possible cyber attacks amid mounting geopolitical turmoil across the globe. We’re shocked that mainstream media didn’t revive the failing Russian narrative for another round of fake news to confuse the masses. Personally, I don’t think it was a cyber attack or the Russians, but more of a Space Weather Event.
Space weather refers to the environmental conditions in Earth’s magnetosphere, ionosphere and thermosphere due to the Sun and the solar wind that can influence the functioning and reliability of spaceborne and ground-based systems and services or endanger property or human health.
Here is PG&E outage map from yesterday’s event. Widespread.
This is the Planetary K-Index, which 5 or greater indicates storm-level geomagnetic activity around earth. The latest space weather data signals a geomagnetic storm rolled in on April 20, 2017. During the elevated K-waves >5, San Fransisco, New York, and Los Angeles experienced power grid failures simultaneously.
Latest Space Weather Warnings
April 22, 2017 @ 08:40 UTC - Geomagnetic Storm Warning (UPDATED)
A moderate (G2) geomagnetic storm is currently in progress thanks to a high speed solar wind stream above 700 km/s. More storming is expected over the next several days as a coronal hole stream rattles our geomagnetic field. Sky watchers at middle to high latitudes should be alert for visible aurora during the next several nights.ALERT: Geomagnetic K-index of 6
Threshold Reached: 2017 Apr 22 0559 UTC
Synoptic Period: 0300-0600 UTC
Active Warning: Yes
NOAA Scale: G2 – Moderate
April 21, 2017 @ 02:40 UTC - Large Coronal Hole Returns / G2 Storm Watch
A large recurrent coronal hole last seen in March will become geoeffective beginning April 23rd. A moderate (G2) geomagnetic storm watch was added and high latitude sky watchers may be in for an aurora treat once an expected solar wind stream arrives past Earth. More updates in the days ahead. As always, stay tuned to SolarHam.com where you will find the most up to date information.
According to http://www.solarham.net/, who uses NOAA data, Geomagnetic Storm has been declared for the past few days.
Piecing together the puzzle, we understand the sun can unleash space weather that can have profound effects on ground based systems, as well as human health. In a report from NOAA titled: Geomagnetic Storms and the US Power Grid, the paper mentions how the US power grid is highly interconnected and susceptible to damage from geomagnetic storms.
US Power Grid is an interconnected system which may explain why San Fransisco, New York, and Los Angeles all experienced power failures relatively at the same time.
The report shows that the sun is the source of ‘GICs’ Geomagnetically Induced Current.
GICs can enter the earth’s surface through transformers in the power grid.
GICs can force a transformer tank wall to overheat
Just maybe thats what happened in San Fransisco with the substation fire
What is a substation?
A substation is a part of an electrical generation, transmission, and distribution system. Substations transform voltage from high to low, or the reverse, or perform any of several other important functions. Between the generating station and consumer, electric power may flow through several substations at different voltage levels. A substation may include transformers to change voltage levels between high transmission voltages and lower distribution voltages, or at the interconnection of two different transmission voltages.
2003 Substation fire due to a geomagnetic storm overheating a transformer
Take away points
Looking ahead, the growth of the US transmission grid has exploded in the past 60 years. This leaves an abundant amount of the US grid susceptible to more power outages and possibly widespread events.
Bonus: Executive Order — Coordinating Efforts to Prepare the Nation for Space Weather Events (Fall 2016). What does our Gov’t know that we don’t?
Bonus: ATL FED-> Playing the Field: Geomagnetic Storms and the Stock Market