By ANDY FLEMING
Throughout history, humanity has steadily increased its dependence upon technology. Although technology has vastly improved the quality of life for billions of people, it has also opened us up to new risks and vulnerabilities. Terrorism and natural disasters might be at the forefront of the minds of policymakers and the public, but a significant threat lurks over our heads: the sun. A massive solar storm, the size last seen a century and a half ago, could easily leave hundreds of millions of people in the dark for days, weeks or even months.
The sun follows a roughly 11-year cycle of activity, measured by the number of sunspots on its surface. The solar maximum - when sunspot activity peaks, with a corresponding increase in solar flares and billion-ton blobs of magnetic field-generating solar plasma known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) launched from the sun's surface - is forecast to occur later this year.
Original Source: American Geophysical Union