An international team of researchers has uncovered evidence of a massive solar event that occurred near the end of the last ice age that dwarfs any other known solar storm, and was twenty times stronger than the most powerful storm witnessed in modern times, 1859’s Carrington Event.

This evidence emerged when the remains of 172 partially-fossilized Scots pine trees were exposed along the eroding banks of the Drouzet River, near Gap in the Southern French Alps. Fifteen of the trees were radiocarbon dated to around 12,000 BCE, about 2,300 years before the retreat of the large glaciers that covered large swaths of the landscape at the end of the Pleistocene.

As part of their analysis, the isotopes of key elements contained in the trees were examined, and the researchers made a startling discovery: there was a massive spike in carbon-14 in the tree rings that dated to a point in time 14,300 years ago, indicating that a celestial event had caused a marked increase in the amount of the otherwise-rare isotope in the atmosphere.

The researchers then cross-referenced this carbon-14 spike with beryllium-10 levels recovered from bubbles preserved in ice cores from the Greenland ice sheet: both isotopes are produced when cosmic rays, originating from both the Sun and beyond the solar system, interact with molecules in the atmosphere, producing carbon-14 from nitrogen atoms and beryllium-10 from oxygen. A spike in beryllium-10 was discovered that corresponded with the date of the increase in carbon-14 found in the tree rings, indicating a massive solar event had taken place.

“Radiocarbon is constantly being produced in the upper atmosphere through a chain of reactions initiated by cosmic rays,” explained lead study author Edouard Bard, Professor of Climate and Ocean Evolution at the Collège de France and CEREGE. “Recently, scientists have found that extreme solar events including solar flares and coronal mass ejections can also create short-term bursts of energetic particles which are preserved as huge spikes in radiocarbon production occurring over the course of just a single year.”

This event was also mind-bogglingly strong, at least an order of magnitude more powerful than anything our civilization has experienced. To put this in perspective, the strongest geomagnetic storm on record took place on September 1, 1859: dubbed the Carrington Event, the storm was generated by a coronal mass ejection (CME) cast into space earlier in the day, and caused auroral displays as far south as the tropics, caused fires in telegraph stations and generated enough power in the communications network for telegraph operators to send messages to one-another, even with their batteries disconnected. It is estimated that if such a storm were to occur today, it would wreak havoc on our modern electrical infrastructure, possibly causing long-term blackouts across much of our civilization.

The event that took place 14,300 years ago, however, was a type of solar disturbance that is much, much stronger. Named “Miyake events”, after the Japanese physicist who discovered their existence, Fusa Miyake, these are massive solar storms that occur roughly once every 1,000 to 2,000 years; traces of nine such events have been discovered so far, with the most recent having taken place in 993 CE. These events are far more powerful than the storm that produced the Carrington Event, typically being ten times stronger than the 1859 storm.

The 12,300 BCE storm, however, set itself apart from the eight other Miyake events in two ways: first, it is currently the oldest known event of its type, having occurred millennia before the 7,176 BCE that previously held that record; secondly, this storm was double the strength of the next strongest Miyake event, making it at least twenty times more powerful than the Carrington Event.

Needless to say, a geomagnetic storm generated by such a solar event could spell disaster for our electrical grids: although it was only a fraction of the strength of the 12,300 BCE event, a powerful geomagnetic storm that took place in March 1989 caused a nine-hour power outage in Canada’s province of Quebec, and caused significant interference in the U.S. electrical grid; a storm an order of magnitude more powerful that the 1989 event could prove to be catastrophic if it were to hit the Earth.

“Extreme solar storms could have huge impacts on Earth,” according to study co-author Tim Heaton, a Professor of Applied Statistics in the School of Mathematics at the University of Leeds. “Such super storms could permanently damage the transformers in our electricity grids, resulting in huge and widespread blackouts lasting months.”
The danger presented by powerful solar storms and what needs to be done to prepare for them are outlined by Whitley in his 2012 ebook Solar Flares: What You Need to Know.

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  1. several remote viewers and psychics are predicting a Carrington event in 2024….we’ll have to see- meanwhile a Faraday cage may protect your digital archives and cell phone.

    1. It’s a common misconception that a powerful geomagnetic storm will fry our everyday electronics, but barring being caught in a power surge from the electrical grid itself, there’s just not enough material in the circuitry of our personal devices to accumulate a meaningful amount of excess charge.

      Larger scale networks like the power grid or internet, however, are comprised of tens of thousands of miles of conductive material, operating across the planetary scale that’s required to allow an excess charge to build to levels that are dangerous to the equipment.

      Regardless, the electrical buildup is caused by fluctuations in the Earth’s magnetic field, something a Faraday cage is incapable of blocking–they only block electromagnetic radiation. Not to mention, if there’s a geomagnetic storm strong enough to knock out personal devices, their failure would be the least of our worries when compared to the the devastation dealt to the infrastructure that supports our beloved gizmos.

      1. True enough. Some suggest putting in your dryer. I just wish to keep childhood photos of my children

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