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Today, nearly all Americans depend upon technology; electricity, computers, TV, cell phones, land-line phones and GPS. But what would happen if one day these conveniences were suddenly not available?
So, What Could Go Wrong?
As a nation, we have become completely dependent upon technology, and many times it’s a layered technology that requires every single part to work or the whole system fails. Leave out any one part, and failure can be the result.
There are a handfull of critical systems like this, (To read more on 8 other systems that are similarly vulnerable, read David’s article about how increases in efficiency have made us incredibly vulnerable by clicking: HERE) but today we’re going to talk about the electrical grid.
People talk about the threat of a nuclear EMP knocking out the electrical grid, but a determined enemy could take out the grid much easier with a cyber attack or a kinetic attack, like what happened at a PG&E substation outside of San Jose, CA in mid-April, 2013 or the bomb attack that happened at a substation south of Tuscon THIS WEEK!
Take away all of the bad people in the world, and our electrical grid is still vulnerable to the sun. And even if an EMP from a solar flare & coronal mass ejection doesn’t knock out the electrical grid, you probably don’t know what it can do to GPS & other satellites.
Ironically, the sun that mankind has always depended upon to keep us warm, tell us of the seasons, and grow our crops may be the link that takes man-made technology down with a whimper.
The following is an excerpt from Christian Monitor June 10, 2014, Sun unleashes two huge solar flares. How will they effect us? article, written by Miriam Kramer.
The sun unleashed two major solar flares early Tuesday (June 10) in amazing back-to-back storms from our nearest star.
The first flare, a powerful X2.2-class solar flare, hit its maximum at about 7:42 a.m. EDT (1142 GMT). The second powerful X1.5-class flare, followed quickly behind, blasting out from the sun at 8:36 a.m. EDT (1236 GMT). Both flares could cause radio communication blackouts on Earth for about an hour, according to an alert from the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado. NASA’s sun-observing Solar Dynamics Observatory captured a video of the flares from space.
* This next portion of the article bears special attention, because it touches upon the affects a sun flare may have on GPS and communications
“Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation,” Karen Fox, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said in a statement. “Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground. However, when intense enough, they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.”
The following day, June 11 released another X-class flare, which SPACE.com discussed in, Sun Erupts with 3rd Huge Solar Flare in 2 Days (Video), written by staff writer Miriam Kramer.
The following is an excerpt concerning the June 11, 2014 X1-class flare:
Today’s solar tempest did cause a brief radio blackout on Earth, but officials with the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center based in Boulder, Colorado, don’t think that the flare has an associated coronal mass ejection–a burst of hot plasma sent out from the sun during some solar flares.
Weak Links With GPS: CME, EMP and Spoofed Signals
GPS has become increasingly relied upon for all aspects of modern life that most of us take for granted and it’s been knocked out in the past by solar flares. Yet, a massive CME or an well-placed EMP has the power to start the dominoes falling. It’s enough of a concern that in November of 2013, The United States Accountability Office (GOA) released their findings on the study: GPS Disruptions: Efforts to Assess Risks to Critical Infrastructure and Coordinate Agency Actions Should Be Enhanced.
The study concentrated on civilian uses of modern conveniences that relies, in part, on GPS applications: communications, energy, financial services, and transportation systems. GPS timing function is responsible for handing off wireless communications. Without the hand-off should the plug be pulled from GPS, communications will fail.
GPS is used in the operation of bulk power systems, both at power plants and substations, which simply means that if GPS goes down, it can cripple the power systems’ ability to troubleshoot power outages.
GPS is also used to time stamp financial transactions and to synchronize financial computer systems; meaning if GPS crashes, so will the ability to make many financial transactions at check-out counters, ATM’s and many other forms of electronic banking.
Air travel, railway, commercial vehicles and the maritime industry all depend upon GPS for positioning, navigation, fleet management, tracking and collision avoidance. Take out GPS, which is integral in the transportation of food and goods, and air and rail travel, and our just-in-time supply chain will take a serious hit.
What Weak Links Did The Study Site?
Several specific weak links of GPS were found in the study. It was discovered that Spoofing (which involves replacing true GPS satellite signals with a manipulated signal) may go undetected by the user. Earlier experiments on this weak link reflected that potential harm exists to bulk power systems, maritime navigation, financial markets and mobile communications.
Another weak link pointed to jamming devices that use radio frequency to intentionally block, jam or can interfere with GPS signals.
The study also sited that space weather can interfere with frequencies used by GPS.
It’s worthwhile reading this study. Perhaps you’ll come to the same conclusion I did after sifting through the doublespeak: today’s technology is vulnerable to the affects of malicious attacks and to solar activity, and from the looks of things, they remain so for the long-term. To “patch” the weak links would basically require going back several technical evolutions ago to a simpler, less dependent and layered technology, where any one of the components (mainly the electrical grid and GPS) can conceivably break, leaving us to fend for ourselves.
In the meantime, we can be thankful that we’re part of the small percentage of the populace who are awake enough to know the pitfalls of being caught unprepared!
It’s true that life would be more challenging after a catastrophic power disruption, but it would be survivable with a solid, broad based preparedness plan like what is laid out in the Survive In Place Urban Survival Course or the Fastest Way To Prepare Course.
Have you been concerned about the affects a powerful CME, nuclear EMP, cyber attack, or kinetic attack would have on the power grid, communications, and the nation’s food chain? Have you planned ahead for doing without a computer or a phone or GPS? Please sound off by commenting below!
And, if you haven’t checked out Former Force Recon Marine, Chris Graham’s at-home 30-10 pistol training, please do so now by clicking >HERE< If you missed Chris nailing a 200 yard shot with a Glock 17 on his first shot, check out the article and video by going >HERE<!
God bless and stay safe,
David Morris and Survival Diva