NASA describes solar storms as bursts of radiation from the release of magnetic energy from the Sun. When the biggest solar storms hit the Earth’s atmosphere on the side facing the Sun, the damage can be significant. But while the most powerful solar storms can pose a threat, storms are common during 11-year solar cycles when the Sun’s magnetic activity is at its peak.
But what’s so bizarre about the ancient “tsunami” storm, the researchers published in the journal Nature Communications, is that it hit during a solar minimum, when storms are much less frequent.
Worryingly, this evidence could suggest that solar storms can strike when you least expect them.
If these storms come into contact with the Earth’s geomagnetic field, radio blackouts and power outages could occur if the eruptions hit a satellite or transformer.
Ranked from G1 to G5 in order of intensity, even at the lower end of the scale, direct contact with a solar storm can be problematic for communications on Earth.
But the strongest storms could even cause power outages that could last for days.
When billions of tons of energetic particles whiz toward Earth during a solar storm, the reaction produces several specific reactions that create what are called isotopes.
Traces of these distinct isotopes can be frozen in ice or trapped in sediment and can help identify when a significant solar storm made contact with Earth.
This is how the researchers were able to identify a solar storm from ice cores taken from Greenland and Antarctica.
And evidence from the samples strongly suggests that a massive solar storm hit Earth 9,125 years ago.
Geologist Raimund Muscheler from Lund University in Sweden, said: “It’s a long and expensive analytical job.
READ MORE: Archaeologists stunned by discovery of Roman city in HS2 excavations
“It is of the utmost importance to analyze what these events could mean for today’s technology and how we can protect ourselves.”
Until now, the most powerful solar storm on record was thought to be the Carrington event, which hit Earth in 1859.
But back then, communication was through telegraph systems, so a storm of this magnitude today could potentially be much worse.
But the colossal event still sparked fires in several telegraph systems and caused communication blackouts around the world.