This should be the top-voted comment, if anyone would care to read it. I's short and pointed.
Edit: this reminds me of Feynman's presentation on the Challenger disaster, only beforehand.
Did FERC do anything with it, or was it ignored?
I was gold-digging at Rokewood, about four miles from Rokewood township (Victoria). Myself and two mates looking out of the tent saw a great reflection in the southern heavens at about 7 o'clock p.m., and in about half an hour, a scene of almost unspeakable beauty presented itself, lights of every imaginable color were issuing from the southern heavens, one color fading away only to give place to another if possible more beautiful than the last, the streams mounting to the zenith, but always becoming a rich purple when reaching there, and always curling round, leaving a clear strip of sky, which may be described as four fingers held at arm's length. The northern side from the zenith was also illuminated with beautiful colors, always curling round at the zenith, but were considered to be merely a reproduction of the southern display, as all colors south and north always corresponded. It was a sight never to be forgotten, and was considered at the time to be the greatest aurora recorded... The rationalist and pantheist saw nature in her most exquisite robes, recognising, the divine immanence, immutable law, cause, and effect. The superstitious and the fanatical had dire forebodings, and thought it a foreshadowing of Armageddon and final dissolution
Or... The Perth newspaper editor took the liberty of rewriting his story - in an early example of sensational click-bait.
Specifically, solar flares induce currents in long untwisted pair cables. If the cables have high impedance loads on the ends, high voltages will result, frying equipment.
The telegraph was an example of a high impedance long wire.
In modern equipment, long length high impedance lines are rare. Telephones are one, at around 900 ohms, although nearly all cables are twisted so barely affected. Power lines have an impedance below 1 ohm. Most Comms goes via fiber. Cable TV networks have a grounded shield so unaffected. Small household devices are small, and therefore don't have long lines to get big currents.
I'm sure a solar flare would break some stuff, but the vast majority of devices are more resistant than people expect.
The most vulnerable thing in today's world is probably actually disused phone lines, which are currently disconnected from anything else, so infinite DC impedance, yet very long, and could cause sparks and fires since they typically have paper insulation which is only good for 1000v or so.
On what evidential basis are you making this claim?
"An enormous solar storm could short out telecom satellites, radio communications, and power grids, leading to trillions of dollars in damages, experts say"
I asked an electrical engineer how well we're prepared for a large solar storm like the carrington event. She said 2 words: "we're not". What do you know that an expert working in this area doesn't?
A similar storm [to the carrington event] could have a catastrophic effect. According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences, the total economic impact could exceed $2 trillion or 20 times greater than the costs of a Hurricane Katrina. Multi-ton transformers damaged by such a storm might take years to repair.
"In my view the July 2012 storm was in all respects at least as strong as the 1859 Carrington event," says Baker. "The only difference is, it missed."
(1) Telecom sats are no longer essentially to much of anything. The vast majority of communcations happen over fiber lines, buried or laying deep under the ocean. GPS satalites may be affected, but the current crop are hardened and expected to survive.
(2) Radio communications certainly may be disrupted during the storm. Our cellphones might be offline for a week, so too local radio stations: a temporary inconveniance rather than end-of-days.
(3) Power grids may well be distrupted. Some transformers may blow. There are a handfull in the US that are of vital importance, but they could be replaced. A worst case senerio might see some large areas without GRID power for a period of weeks. But the power plants will still be there. Some sort of diminished local service would be restored.
Who will feel the effects: The military. Militaries still rely on telecomunications via satalite. They still rely on radio for long range communications.
The worst case scenario might be that your power grid is down and nobody can intervene because every intervention site is on fire. Big cities would be particularly affected since they don't do well for long without power.
All wireless communications, all maritime communication, being affected is much more than an inconvenience. The literal end of society and civilization? No. Potentially hundreds of thousands dead, billions of dollars in damages? Yes.
Your (3) ignores the TIME it takes to manufacture AND deliver/deploy grid-level/substation grade transformers.
There aren't many spares around, and it's not like you could buy them at the Home Depot/Lowes, etc.
Actually, if you're so inclined, you could gather that from various press releases of the involved parties, which i happened to come across because of idly watching various youtube videos of said heavy transports, which linked back to those. It's often a very complicated and slow multimodal operation, by ship, rail, and street, involving large detours to avoid bridges and other obstacles.
It's not like (I hope!) any government's public policy is being driven by HN comment threads.
> So experts are wrong and you're right. OK.
Yes, that position was already clear from their comment.
Didn't come across that you actually wanted to know the facts, but to assert that everything was fine, just fine.
That kind of thinking is what got us into the covid crisis we're slogging through at fantastic cost right now.
Of course that may not have been your intent but if not, what are you doing.
This is absolutely, 100% a big problem. While these FOIA’d FEMA docs  are just one source, searching for “solar flare blackout” will net you all the sources you need. It’s the same as a nuclear EMP.
 (PDF): http://www.governmentattic.org/24docs/UnpubFEMAgeomagRpts_20...
"NERC recognizes that other studies have indicated a severe GMD event would result in the failure of a large number of EHV transformers. The work of the GMD Task Force documented in this report does not support this result for reasons detailed in Chapter 5 (Power Transformers), and Chapter 8 (Power System Analysis). Instead, voltage instability is the far more likely result of a severe GMD storm, although older transformers of a certain design and transformers near the end of operation life could experience damage."
 (pdf): https://www.resilientsocieties.org/uploads/5/4/0/0/54008795/...
If you want a very in-depth review:
The long term damage from that is significantly less than assumed. Yes, making ultra efficient transformers designed to last decades is extremely time consuming, but building something less efficient in under a week is also possible. There would likely be various electrical issues until they where replaced, but that’s vastly better than societal collapse.
Consider, a modern ship’s propeller is an marvel of modern engineering that would be extremely difficult to replace with something nearly as good. But, welding some plates to the drive shaft is vastly better than nothing in an emergency. Similarly, if the choice is a poor solution or no electrical grid, having some power makes a huge difference.
The purple lines there stand for the highest voltage level of the grid which usually runs at 380.000 to 400.000 Volts(with a few higher exceptions). These and their transformers are the most vulnerable to what we are talking about.
What do you hope to 'McGuyvering' there with maybe 110.000 Volts when the whole structure and anything connected to that is designed, specified, and built for at least three times the voltage?
400kV is not directly stepped down to 33kV there are generally intermediaries at 132kV and or 66kV. So if you can send 132kV or even 66kV much of the equipment can be used.
Getting enough power to operate refrigeration and stop lights is a big deal. If you can only send 20% of normal power across those lines then that’s what you’re stuck with. In places such as Hawaii, local generation is close enough that your it’s no big deal, in others you may end up with rolling blackouts or charging 1+$/kWh.
The danger is not from the cables burning out (extreme GIC events can lead to a couple of hundred Amps, which shouldn't be a problem for the cables), but the addition of the DC current in an operational transformer will push it into core saturation leading to nasty effects. Twisted/untwisted cables don't come into it.
Source: postdoc who models Carrington-scale events, and did my PhD on GICs in a regional power network.
But wrapping tinfoil? The kind of energies we're talking about would vaporize the tinfoil without breaking a sweat.
Disclaimer: I am not an EE.
Differences in ground potential means that any cable that is grounded on more than one place now has a huge amount of current trying to run through it, on a large potential.
As long as the DC impedance to ground anywhere is <500 ohms, I wouldn't imagine enough voltage to build up to break down even a tiny signal transformer. In power systems, the connection between neutral and earth does that.
Long ethernet cables might be a concern, since the common mode DC impedance at the termination is normally infinite... Analogue audio equipment also frequently has infinite common mode impedance to prevent ground loops.
What sorts of consumer electronics (if any) might be affected by a flare?
(Ex: I could charge my tablet with an Anker solar charger I have and as long as the electronics hold up have access to the videos/music indefinitely)
Your best bet might be to stash a solar panel some place shielded, and then use that to charge the batteries after the CME has passed.
The fear about disconnected electronics becoming fried comes from the Nuclear Electromagnetic Pulse(NEMP). Which is a fast thing, inducing large spikes in a short amount of time, thereby frying transistors on-chip, if unshielded, even when disconnected.
* Old things (ie. pre 1990) - ie. before it was common to put protection diodes on every CMOS input.
* Analogue things designed to be very sensitive, particularly at longer wavelengths. FM/AM radio, ECG machines, microphone inputs...
* More modern things if a power cycle can't reset state.
Since the last peak of the solar cycle, the Great Britain transmission system has developed to become more meshed and more heavily loaded. It now has a greater dependence on reactive compensation equipment such as static variable compensators and mechanically switched capacitors for ensuring robust voltage control. Thus there is increased probability of severe geomagnetic storms affecting transmission equipment critical to robust operation of the system. The greatest effects of GICs are normally experienced at the periphery of the transmission systems, as in Figure 9.
The UK government response:
Some UK systems are more resilient and robust to space weather than counterparts
the GB power grid network is highly meshed and has a great deal of built in redundancy. This potentially makes it less susceptible to space weather effects
than power grids in some other countries.
A toxic combination of normalcy bias, the availability heuristic, and hyperbolic discounting?
If you are successful, the problem doesn't occur, the population listen to those who say "it wasn't really a problem in the first place", and mainstream populists adopt that position to win votes (regardless of their own thoughts). You don't get to play that card again
If you aren't successful, the problem occurs anyway and you get accused of not caring
Without Democracy those in charge wouldn't be concerned by trying to win the population over
Without the ability for anyone to reach millions of people overnight people wouldn't be swayed en-mass by contrarians
Often you're damned if you do, damned if you don't. We can see the same thing unfolding in the UK and US over covid19.
Is there any hope of avoiding huge problems due to solar flares happening in the near/medium-term? A silver lining from the Coronavirus pandemic is that people may think about these rare events more.
As far as I know we have no feasible way today to completely mitigate the effects of a storm similar in scale to the 1859 one. A strong enough solar storm can induce currents able to simply melt the transmission lines (especially low resistance ones - ultra high voltage, 1000+kV) possibly causing fires along the way, destroy transformers, and more. There will always be a storm that surpasses the GIC tolerance on most or all transformers. Pipelines and any other type of cable of significant length would also be seriously affected.
I think it's possible to prepare the grid too.
As other comments have said, the biggest pain would be the availability of replacement small transformers.
Edit: ok then https://twitter.com/RobinWigg/status/1070319949510520832
What a show!
Edit: this probability appears to have been amended recently. From https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190312103717.h...
According to this new research, the probability of a similar solar storm occurring in the following decade ranges from 0.46% to 1.88%, far less than the percentage estimated before. "In 2012, the results reported in scientific literature estimated the probability to be around 12%, ten times more than our more pessimistic estimation,"
So much better, but one of the paper's authors says "A probability close to 2% which is what we have calculated for a highly intense storm should not be looked over if we take into account the consequences of such an event"