People who don't know their history are fated to repeat their mistakes. It has always been assumed by solar scientists that our sun does not emit the same sort of superflares seen bursting out of similar stars. But now it appears that the sun did emit a superflare in 774 AD, and, as Whitley Strieber points out in his new e-book, Solar Flares, it may have emitted an even LARGER one 14,000 years ago.
Until recently, the years 774 and 775 were best known for Charlemagne's victory over the Lombards. But earlier this year, a team of scientists in Japan discovered a baffling spike in carbon-14 deposits within the rings of cedar trees that matched those same years. Because cosmic rays are tied to carbon-14 concentrations, scientists around the world have wondered about the cause: a nearby supernova, a gamma ray burst in the Milky Way or an intense superflare emanating from the Sun?
Astronomer Adrian Melott examined the evidence and zeroed in on the likely source of the medieval cosmic ray bombardment--a coronal mass ejection (CME) from the Sun. The scientists who originally discovered the carbon-14 spike miscalculated the implied intensity of such an event, and they mistakenly ruled out the sun as the cause of the radiation detected for the years 774-775.
Something similar to the Charlemagne event would have disastrous consequences for today's technology-dependent world, as Whitley points out in his e-book.. Thankfully, this type of event could occur every one or two thousand years, but when it does, it will strike with only a few hours' warning, and RECENT observations of stars similar to the Sun made by the Kepler satellite suggest that they are flaring at levels similar to that event.
PhysOrg.com quotes Melott as saying, "You'd get a slight increase in skin cancer rates because of effects on the ozone layer. You'd get a little bit of damage to food crops, but that's not too serious--and it wasn't for the Holy Roman Empire either. But we have a problem they didn't, which is our technological level. When these things hit, the Earth's magnetic field undergoes an interaction, and the magnetic field lines move, and that produces a current in wires. If you have a long power line, you can get a huge current. Transformers get overloaded, and they burn out. And you can lose a lot of transformers. Imagine the lights going off all over the developed world--not to come on for who knows how long--because you have to build more transformers. And how to you do that without electricity? It's a real problem to prepare for it."