Archive for the EMB Category

EXPERT: EMP attack could bring US to a screeching halt

Posted in EMB with tags , , , , , on October 2, 2012 by saynsumthn

In testimony delivered on September 12, Brandon Wales, director of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Infrastructure Threat and Risk Analysis Center, admitted that DHS remains unprepared for the possibility of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) event or attack.

Wales testified that the nation’s power grid is more vulnerable now than it was a few years ago. Nevertheless, he could not provide Congress with an estimate for how much it would cost to combat such vulnerabilities.

An EMP attack could bring this country to a screeching halt by permanently disabling electronic devices. ATMs would stop dispensing money. Water and sewage systems would fail. Even planes and automobiles would stop working. Imagine living in the Dark Ages: This is what it would be like to live through an EMP attack.

More than seven years ago, DHS released its National Planning Scenarios. This document outlined plans to prepare for and respond to 15 different man-made and natural disasters. The list included the detonation of an improvised nuclear device and the use of a plague as a weapon. However, one potential threat was noticeably missing; an EMP event or attack.

READ MORE HERE

Witnesses

Panel I

Hon. Trent Franks
A Representative in Congress from the 2nd District of Arizona

Panel II

Mr. Joseph McClelland
Director
Office of Electric Reliability
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
[full text of testimony]

Mr. Brandon Wales
Director
Homeland Infrastructure Threat and Risk Analysis Center
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
[full text of testimony]

Mr. Michael A. Aimone
Director
Business Enterprise Integration
Office of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Installations
Office of Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics
Department of Defense
[full text of testimony]

Panel III

Mr. Chris Beck
President
Electric Infrastructure Security Council
[full text of testimony]
[truth in testimony]

Coast to Coast interviews Nick Begich and Alex Jones on mysterious bird deaths

Posted in Alex Jones, EMB, Environment, EPA with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2011 by saynsumthn

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Ark. residents baffled by thousands of dead birds, posted with vodpod

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Thousands of birds mysteriously fall from sky, posted with vodpod

Electromagnetic pulse threat

Posted in EMB with tags , , , , , , , on November 12, 2010 by saynsumthn

Electromagnetic pulse impact far and wide
Modern society relies on technologies vulnerable to electromagnetic pulse effects that, if strong enough, can induce currents that burn out wires and circuits. The following are two worst-case scenarios:

One EMP burst and the world goes dark

By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY

The sky erupts. Cities darken, food spoils and homes fall silent. Civilization collapses.

End-of-the-world novel? A video game? Or could such a scenario loom in America’s future?

There is talk of catastrophe ahead, depending on whom you believe, because of the threat of an electromagnetic pulse triggered by either a supersized solar storm or terrorist A-bomb, both capable of disabling the electric grid that powers modern life.

Electromagnetic pulses (EMP) are oversized outbursts of atmospheric electricity. Whether powered by geomagnetic storms or by nuclear blasts, their resultant intense magnetic fields can induce ground currents strong enough to burn out power lines and electrical equipment across state lines.

The threat has even become political fodder, drawing warnings from former House speaker Newt Gingrich, a likely presidential contender.

“We are not today hardened against this,” he told a Heritage Foundation audience last year. “It is an enormous catastrophic threat.”

Meanwhile, in Congress, a “Grid Act” bill aimed at the threat awaits Senate action, having passed in the House of Representatives.

Fear is evident. With the sun’s 11-year solar cycle ramping up for its stormy maximum in 2012, and nuclear concerns swirling about Iran and North Korea, a drumbeat of reports and blue-ribbon panels center on electromagnetic pulse scenarios.

“We’re taking this seriously,” says Ed Legge of the Edison Electric Institute in Washington, which represents utilities. He points to a North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) report in June, conducted with the Energy Department, that found pulse threats to the grid “may be much greater than anticipated.”

There are “some important reasons for concern,” says physicist Yousaf Butt of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. “But there is also a lot of fluff.”

At risk are the more than 200,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines that cross North America, supplying 1,800 utilities the power for TVs, lights, refrigerators and air conditioners in homes, and for the businesses, hospitals and police stations that take care of us all.

“The electric grid’s vulnerability to cyber and to other attacks is one of the single greatest threats to our national security,” Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said in June as he introduced the bill to the House of Representatives.

Markey and others point to the August 2003 blackout that struck states from Michigan to Massachusetts, and southeastern Canada, as a sign of the grid’s vulnerability. Triggered by high-voltage lines stretched by heat until they sagged onto overgrown tree branches, the two-day blackout shut down 100 power plants, cut juice to about 55 million people and cost $6 billion, says the 2004 U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force.

Despite the costs, most of them from lost work, a National Center for Environmental Health report in 2005 found “minimal” death or injuries tied directly to the 2003 blackout — a few people died in carbon monoxide poisonings as a result of generators running in their homes or from fires started from candles. But the effects were pervasive: Television and radio stations went off the air in Detroit, traffic lights and train lines stopped running in New York, turning Manhattan into the world’s largest pedestrian mall, and water had to be boiled after water mains lost pressure in Cleveland.

Simple physics, big worry
The electromagnetic pulse threat is a function of simple physics: Electromagnetic pulses and geomagnetic storms can alter Earth’s magnetic field. Changing magnetic fields in the atmosphere, in turn, can trigger surging currents in power lines.

“It is a well-understood phenomenon,” says Butt, who this year reviewed geomagnetic and nuke blast worries in The Space Review.

Two historic incidents often figure in the discussion:

• On July 9, 1962, the Atomic Energy Commission and the Defense Atomic Support Agency detonated the Starfish Prime, a 1.4-megaton H-bomb test at an altitude of 250 miles, some 900 miles southwest of Hawaii over the Pacific Ocean. The pulse shorted out streetlights in Oahu.
• On March 9, 1989, the sun spat a million-mile-wide blast of high-temperature charged solar gas straight at the Earth. The “coronal mass ejection” struck the planet three days later, triggering a geomagnetic storm that made the northern lights visible in Texas. The storm also induced currents in Quebec’s power grid that knocked out power for 6 million people in Canada and the USA for at least nine hours.

“A lot of the questions are what steps does it make sense to take,” Legge says. “We could effectively gold-plate every component in the system, but the cost would mean that people can’t afford the rates that would result to pay for it.”

“The high-altitude nuclear-weapon-generated electromagnetic pulse is one of a small number of threats that has the potential to hold our society seriously at risk,” concluded a 2008 EMP Commission report headed by William Graham, a former science adviser to President Reagan.

The terror effect

In the nuclear scenario, the detonation of an atomic bomb anywhere from 25 to 500 miles high electrifies, or ionizes, the atmosphere about 25 miles up, triggering a series of electromagnetic pulses. The pulse’s reach varies with the size of the bomb, the height of its blast and design.

Gingrich last year cited the EMP Commission report in warning, “One weapon of this kind that went off over Omaha would eliminate most of the electrical production in the United States.”

But some take issue with that.

“You would really need something the size of a Soviet H-bomb to have effects that cross many states,” Butt says. The massive Starfish Prime blast, he notes, was at least 70 times more powerful than the atomic bomb detonated over Hiroshima in 1945, and it may have blown out streetlights but it left the grid in Hawaii intact.

One complication for rogue nations or terrorists contemplating a high-altitude nuclear blast is that such an attack requires a missile to take the weapon at least 25 miles high to trigger the electromagnetic pulse. For nations, such a launch would invite massive nuclear retaliation from the USA’s current stockpile of 5,000 warheads, many of them riding in submarines far from any pulse effects.

Any nation giving a terror group an atomic weapon and missile would face retaliation, Butt and others note, as nuclear forensics capabilities at the U.S. national labs would quickly trace the origins of the bomb, Butt says. “It would be suicide.”

Super solar storm
On the solar front, the big fear is a solar super storm, a large, fast, coronal mass ejection with a magnetic field that lines up with an orientation perfectly opposite the Earth’s own magnetic field, says solar physicist Bruce Tsurutani of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Tsuritani and other solar physicists view such an event as inevitable in the next 10 to 100 years.

“It has to be the perfect storm,” Tsuratani says.

“We are almost guaranteed a very large solar storm at some point, but we are talking about a risk over decades,” Butt says. Three power grids gird the continental U.S. — one crossing 39 Eastern states, one for 11 Western states and one for Texas.

Solutions?

In June, national security analyst Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists described congressional debate over power-grid security as “a somewhat jarring mix of prudent anticipation and extravagant doomsday warnings.”

Although the physics underlying the geomagnetic and nuclear pulses are fundamentally the same, they have different solutions. A geomagnetic storm essentially produces a long-building surge dangerous to power lines and large transformers. A nuclear blast produces three waves of pulses.

Limiting the risk from the geomagnetic-storm-type threat involves stockpiling large transformers and installing dampers, essentially lightning rods, to dump surges into the ground from the grid. Even if such steps cost billions, the numbers come out looking reasonable compared with the $119 billion that a 2005 Electric Power Research Institute report estimated was the total nationwide cost of normal blackouts every year.

“EMP is one of a small number of threats that can hold our society at risk of catastrophic consequences,” Graham testified to a congressional committee last year, endorsing such mitigation steps.

Stephen Younger, former head of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, last year argued against the catastrophic scenarios in his book, The Bomb, suggesting the effects of a pulse would be more random, temporary and limited than Graham and others suggest.

The June NERC report essentially calls for more study of the problem, warning of excessive costs to harden too much equipment against the nuclear risk. “If there are nuclear bombs exploding, we have lots of really, really, big problems besides the power grid,” Legge says.

Electronic Armageddon: How An EMP Bomb Would Be A Deathblow To Life As We Know It

Posted in EMB with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 18, 2010 by saynsumthn

Earlier this month, NASA warned that as the Sun wakes up from its “deep slumber,” a massive solar storm could wreak havoc on our electronics, from satellites to the electrical grid, causing damages up to 20 times the cost of Hurricane Katrina.

But the Sun isn’t the only threat to our electronic lifeline. National Geographic explorers the risk and consequences of the “electronic Armageddon” that could be caused by an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) bomb.

An EMP bomb, National Geographic explains, is “a bomb that’s designed to go above the atmosphere and release huge amounts of energy,” some of which in the form of gamma rays. Such a weapon would cripple electronics, but not kill people.

“In less than a billionth of a second, the electrical intensity on Earth’s surface would become so hot that microchips would fry, power lines would overload and the electric grid would collapse,” says National Geographic, describing . “Everything with microelectronics in it would stop: your car, your computer, the subway. There would be no electricity.”

Learn more about what would happen if an EMP bomb were ever detonated in the video below, then find out more about solar flares.

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Nasa solar flare space storm warning: a British scientist writes

June 2010

Senior Nasa scientists have warned of the problems that a once-in-a-generation “space storm” could pose to Britain. Here a British space scientist, Dr Chris Davis, explains why this has occurred and what is being done about it.

“Look at images of the Sun taken from space and you will see that it is not the plain yellow disk that we see shining through the clouds on Earth.

Spacecraft images reveal the Sun as a rotating, seething fiery ball of electrically charged fluid. Magnetic fields generated by this constant churning drive the activity cycle of the Sun.

Complex tangles of high-intensity magnetic field are created from which violent eruptions of material can occur. Each one of these solar storms is a magnetic bubble containing around a billion tonnes of material from the hot solar atmosphere travelling at a million miles an hour.

The more tangled the Sun’s magnetic field, the more frequent these eruptions become, with the number of outbursts reaching a crescendo every eleven years or so.

When a solar storm is launched into space, the material accelerated with it represents a hazard to space-borne electronics and astronauts.

Sitting on a ball of rock some 93 million miles from this cosmic popcorn machine, we have an interest in knowing when such a storm is heading towards us and what the consequences will be when one arrives.

The most beautiful manifestation is the aurora (the northern and southern lights), created when hot solar particles enter the Earth’s protective magnetic bubble and energise the atmosphere high above the north and south poles.

As these charged particles flow through the Earth’s ionosphere (an electrified layer in the Earth’s upper atmosphere), they can induce surges within the world’s power grids that can damage vital transformers.

As we head towards the next peak in solar activity in 2013, researchers at Lancaster University are developing computer models to investigate the effects of such currents on our national grid system.

The energy dumped into the upper atmosphere during such a storm can also temporarily distort and weaken the earth’s ionosphere, disrupting radio communications and reducing the accuracy of civilian GPS navigation systems.

The speed, intensity and frequency of these solar storms is very variable and predicting their occurrence is the holy grail of solar science. Missions such as the two Nasa STEREO spacecraft are doing much to advance our understanding.

Viewing the Sun from positions either side of the Earth, these spacecraft have made the first 3D images of the Sun, allowing complex changes in the Sun’s magnetic field to be studied in great detail prior to the eruption of a solar storm.

The STEREO mission also carries two UK-built cameras that image the space between the Sun and the Earth so that Earth-directed storms can be tracked all the way to our planet.

At the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, researchers are working with government forecasters in the USA to improve predictions of a storm’s arrival at Earth.

Given enough warning, satellite operators can hibernate sensitive electronics, power companies can prepare for surges and astronauts reschedule spacewalks.

With over 100,000 images collected from the UK cameras so far, keeping up with the Sun’s tantrums is a full-time job.

As a result, the UK STEREO team have joined forces with the Royal Observatory, Greenwich and the Galaxy Zoo team to create “solar stormwatch” where member of the public can assist this pioneering research by identifying and tracking storms in STEREO images.

Some may even help predict the arrival of the next solar storm at Earth.

The Sun produces a “perfect storm” at Earth once per century.

An event in 1859 caused major disruptions to the US telegraph system. In 1989 a solar storm caused the power-grid in Quebec to fail.

As we become dependent on satellite technology we will need a reliable space weather forecast.”

More here