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Letter: We Already Had a Carrington-Style Event

The 1972 solar storm was in the same basic order of magnitude

Solar Flare Getty 518495420 RF fotojog
An image of the sun in space. Stock photo Getty Images/fotojog

James Careless’ article in the Aug. 19 issue of Radio World about WWV and the MARS system being a last line of defense in case of another Carrington event was interesting and useful.

However, it should be pointed out that many of us have already lived through a Carrington-event-sized solar flare.

In August of 1972 there were a number of large flares that caused severe geomagnetic storms, causing AM station engineers to wonder what was causing their spark gaps to arc over seemingly at random.

The geomagnetic disturbance was enough to set off magnetic mines in Haiphong harbor, much to the dismay of the U.S. Navy. Auroras were seen as far south as Spain and there were serious ground fault currents generated in telephone and power distribution systems. Phone lines went out and power line protective relays tripped.

There have been some debates about what the actual strength of the Carrington event was, but the 1972 solar storm was in the same basic order of magnitude and was sufficiently well-measured to be a useful reference for people preparing for solar storms today.

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