Once every 100 years or so, Earth is gifted with a huge-ass solar storm. Awesome! So we’re all totally fucked, right? Kinda. Fresh research shows that solar storm-caused blackouts and other nuisances could cost the United States a hefty $41.5 billion per day, Gizmodo ruthlessly reported Thursday.
That number comes straight from a new study published by Space Weather, showing that a “sufficiently powerful” storm could place the U.S. economy in an extremely difficult spot by wiping out transformers (not that kind!) and disabling power grids.
“We felt it was important to look at how extreme space weather may affect domestic US production in various economic sectors, including manufacturing, government, and finance, as well as the potential economic loss in other nations owing to supply chain linkages,” Edward Oughton, co-author of the delightful study, said in a statement obtained by Gizmodo. Oughton was particularly surprised by what he said was a “lack of transparent research” into the costs of such an event in the past.
The real bastard in this worst case scenario, Gizmodo‘s George Dvorsky explains, are coronal mass ejections (CMEs). CMEs allow potentially bad shit such as x-rays and magnetized plasma to be sent in Earth’s general direction. Though smaller storms can take out something as seemingly arbitrary as one’s phone, massive ones—like the one for which some say our planet is due—can reportedly take down entire grids.
There isn’t total consensus among experts, however, on the actual intensity of these CME-imposed blackouts. Per Gizmodo:
“Some say the ensuing outages would be relatively brief, lasting only a few hours or days owing to the resilience of the existing transmission system. Others warn that blackouts could last weeks—or even months—because damaged transmission networks would need to be replaced.”