Over the past 48 hours, the sun has exploded with no fewer than four x-class flares. X flares are the most powerful type of flare. Sunspot AR1748 has produced the flares. The latest X-flare from the sunspot occured on May 15th at 0152 UT. For four x-flares to take place over such a short period of time is highly unusual, and NASA is estimating that the sunspot has a 50% chance of generating more x-flares, and an 80% chance of generating smaller m-class flares. These flares are generating high levels of solar radiation, but so far, purely by chance, have not been directed at Earth.
As Whitley Strieber points out in his e-book Solar Flares: What You Need to Know, studies have shown that the power grids of many countries, including the US, could be severely disrupted by solar storms. At present, there is an effort in congress to legislate safety standards that would protect our power grid, but there is little congressional interest. If a storm on the scale of one of the ones now being generated were to strike Earth, there would be little damage. However, if one storm stripped away our magnetic field and was then followed shortly thereafter by another, catastrophic disruptions could take place. This is because, as time passes and our world becomes more and more electronically powered, it is becoming more vulnerable to smaller and smaller solar flares.
For example, a powerful flare that struck Earth in 1921 caused little damage. If such a flare hit today, it would result in a catastrophe. Similarly, should a flare the strength of the 1859 Carrington Event take place now, most large power transformers would be destroyed, and the United States would be left without power for a decade, during which time studies show that the population would contract by more than half.
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