Risk of X-class Solar Flares as Huge Sunspot Aligns Towards Earth

Most people may not realize it, but… A huge sunspot has rotated directly into ‘firing position’ for a potential direct hit on Earth. And it’s shooting off X-class flares. It’s like staring down the barrel of a gun aimed right at you. Sort of like playing Russian Roulette.

I couldn’t help but post about sunspot region AR3182 today (with AR3184 on its heels). The region currently has more than 50 sunspots within it. And it has released X-class flares. Here’s a picture of the sun captured just moments ago, as of this posting. Region 3182 staring us in the face…

Just for reference, from this view, sunspots move from left to right. Center being aligned with Earth (although most any relative angle could be consequential to us here on our planet).

To put it into perspective, about 100 planet Earth’s would fit across the equator of the sun. Giving it a rough measurement, it looks like the center blob portion of sunspot region 3182 could fit about six Earth planets within its circumference.

From SpaceWeather.com, Yesterday’s X1.9-class solar flare did not hurl a CME toward Earth. Although it was intense, the blast was too brief to lift a CME out of the sun’s atmosphere. Next time may be different. There are now three large sunspots (AR3181, 82 and 84) with unstable ‘delta-class’ magnetic fields capable of strong explosions. NOAA forecasters say there is a 35% chance of X-flares on Jan. 10th.

I know that this being a current-event, it will come and go, hopefully without issue. However, I do wish to bring awareness to an event that will without a doubt, occur one day. Maybe a long, long time in the future. Or, maybe today…

X-class solar flares

The largest explosions in the solar system get rewarded for their sheer brawn with a fitting, sci-fi-sounding name: X-class. Made visible to us by sun-observing satellites, these solar flares are awesome to watch. Loops of solar material—called plasma—leap off the sun’s surface.

The biggest flares can produce as much energy as a billion hydrogen bombs. Scientists categorize solar flares according to strength. The smallest ones are A-class, at near-background solar activity levels, followed by B, C, M, and X.

Similar to the Richter scale for earthquakes, each letter represents a 10-fold increase in energy output. So an X is 10 times an M and 100 times a C. Within each letter class there is a finer scale from one to nine. Although X is the last letter, there are flares more than 10 times the power of an X1, so X-class flares can go higher than nine.

Largest X-class solar flare ever measured

The year was 2003. The largest X-class solar flare ever measured (during our modern era of instrumentation). It was so powerful that satellite sensors were overpowered. Sensors cut out at X17 but it was ultimately estimated as an X45. Literally, and fortunately, this flare was not pointed anywhere towards Earth. If it had been facing Earth, that solar flare and associated CME (coronal mass ejection) likely would have destroyed our ‘modern’ era.

July, 2012. A CME occurred with the strength comparable to the 1859 Carrington Event. We barely missed a global catastrophe. The sun revolves in 25 days. That CME missed a direct hit on the earth by nine days of the sun’s revolution.

It is a certainty that at some point in the future, the Earth will receive a direct hit from one of these monster X-class flares / CME. Of course, we do not know when. However when the sun is active with sunspots and flares, the odds certainly go up.

Here’s a video clip from NASA that I found interesting about solar flares/eruptions, how they’re classified (B,C,M,X-class), and how they monitor the sun.

Preparing For The Monster X-class Solar Kill Shot?

I’ve posted about EMP (electromagnetic pulse) here on the blog from time to time. Usually in the context of nuclear weapons (some of which can be purposed as an EMP weapon). It’s use has the potential of ‘frying’ electronics within the countless devices and systems that run our modern world – or where it’s targeted.

Similarly, although by a different mechanism entirely out of the control of humankind, the Sun has potential to impact our modern civilization to a terrifying extent. I don’t look at it as a risk whereby I should drop everything and prepare for such a thing. On the other hand, as one goes through life with a mindset towards furthering preparedness (and all the many aspects thereof), eventually one becomes nicely prepared, in general. Enough for a modern civilization ending event? I suppose that depends…

“One Second After”

[ Read: Quebec Blackout 1989 – Power Grid Geomagnetic Storm Vulnerability ]

[ Read: 2012 CME | A Near Miss Catastrophic Disaster ]


  1. I check spaceweather.com daily, and there are definitely some beauties coming around to face Earth. I believe the sunspot cycle won’t even peak until 2025. That gives those big buggars plenty of time to take pot shots at Earth. It’s only a matter of time, then KABLOOEY!!!! :) This solar cycle is shaping up to be a good one. Of course there’s always the next cycle, or maybe the next. Anyway, it don’t hurt to double check your propane supply, food, water, chop extra wood, and check battery supply, etc. I do think it’s possible that we might take a good shot or two this solar cycle, maybe even big enough to knock out electricity for a while. Hope not, but don’t be surprised. From the looks of those ones coming around, might be soon.

    1. And check out Electroverse.co for information also. We’ve always prepared like it could be the 1800’s again. I do love all my modern items, but could get the day to day done differently if need be. Hope nothing happens this time (or any time) as we have family members out of state right now.

  2. This is interesting because my Internet service provider sent out an urgent warning today to expect service disruptions due to “severe weather”. Strange. We haven’t been hit nearly as bad as NorCal and the forecast isn’t that scary either. Now it makes sense, they aren’t talking about Earth weather. Anony Mee is a bit of an expert on these things, maybe an opinion will be forthcoming.

    1. Tmac
      Take a look at SolarHam it has good details. I had forgotten about this site until I was searching for the one I used yesterday on the current weather patterns.

      1. AC thanks for the information on ‘SolarHam’………very informative site

  3. The sun produced another X-flare on Jan. 10th (X1.2), this time from new sunspot AR3186. This is the 3rd X-flare in a week, and each flare has come from a different sunspot. It’s not just a single active region; the *whole sun* is becoming more active.

  4. Earth-Sky did an article on this. Scientist believe the probability of a solar “Great Super Storm” of Carrington event size is about 4%, about once in 25 years. “Severe Storms”, that disrupt communications at 28%.
    Your “normal disasters”,(floods, fires,extreme weather) are localized and happen more often. The difference is the solar great storms have the capacity to knock out the electrical grid world-wide in a more permanent way. You are better off prepping for the localized events that happen more often, imho.

  5. I can imagine many things that would happen if we were hit with another Carrington event.
    The worst of is government reaction.
    I believe they would go whole hog, possibly after a time citizen registration to know who’s alive, where
    and possibly resources like water access.
    Weapon confiscation will likely be primary in and around city’s, registration in the country if were lucky.

    The most interesting thing would be to see who got special treatment.
    It would be a while before any serious organization was set in motion but control could be lost if it
    wasn’t demonstrated someone was in fact still in control somewhere, or pretending to be.

    My imaginings.

    1. If the U.S. is hit squarely with another Carrington sized event, or larger, it will cause the death of most everyone, estimated at 90%, within the first 12 months.

      One will probably not see the Federal Government reacting to provide relief to the population, although your local government might attempt to do something, at first. I suspect people will see an immediate government reaction to the sudden problem caused by 90 some-odd, nuclear reactors going LOCA and starting to suffer core melts.

      Expect the power to be off for the rest of your probable life-time.

      1. Ision, do you know where the number of “90%” came from? I’ve searched in the past trying to figure out how they got such a high number. Hm. Could be true tho……

        1. I’m looking for that, it came from a single study years back.
          the 90%

        2. US Govt 2008 EMP study by Dr Fry, I think. Was the first real assessment of how bad a Carrington type event would affect the modern world.

        3. Minerjim, sounds right.
          I think it was a prediction to a NorthKorea attack scenario that was not even possible until recently.
          I still think it’s somewhat overblown.
          I’d agree to something in the range of 60 to 70%, mainly city people.

        4. Dr. Peter Pry. He recently passed away, but I believe he contributed in some way to the One Second After book series. He was also participated in urging our Government to secure the Grid for many years.

        5. NWMitten, Yes, Bill Forstchen calls Peter Pry the godfather of his One Second After series. As Executive Director for Congress’ EMP Commission, and the author of many of the Commission’s reports, he argued for an “all hazards” approach to securing our electrical grid. This included CMEs.

        6. Anony Mee, thank you for expanding on my reply. It was late and the brain was having trouble remembering the details. I admired the efforts of Dr Pry, we will all suffer because the powers that be did not take heed to his warnings.

        7. DJ5280…

          Yes. The U.S. Military provided this estimate, as the result of its study on the effects of an EMP attack upon the country, wherein two satellite devices are detonated at 400 km altitude. Several government generated EMP reports are now available to the general public, but the classified information is these has been removed, of course. I was privy to such classified information for several years, however, where civilian casualty estimates…always a touchy topic…were provided.

          The United States…and modern civilization in general…are always in continuous danger from the effects of either natural, or man-made, EMP events and attacks. The Sun may produce a CME of sufficient power, or a nation-state could decide to detonate specially designed, satellite borne, nuclear devices, in high Earth orbit, in an attempt to destroy and hinder our military forces and shut down our critical national infrastructures.


        8. Part Two:
          Any such event of this kind will produce a nationwide blackout of the entire electric power grid and all grid-dependent critical infrastructures, including all communications,
          transportation, sanitation, food and water supplies…and such an outage could easily last for a year, or longer.

          Despite the many systems designed to provide renewable, stand-alone power, in case of an emergency, such as generators, uninterruptible battery power supplies (UPS), and renewable energy grid components (such as wind turbines and solar panels), all are exposed and vulnerable to any powerful EMP attack, or a massive X flare CME.


        9. Part Three
          It is expected we shall experience a VERY long-term power outage, especially as the result of a properly planned EMP attack, this will effectively disable most critical supply chains, leaving the
          the vast bulk of the U.S. population attempting to survive in conditions similar to centuries past, such as prior to the 1800s, before to the advent of electric power, without the benefit of the equipment and knowledge our ancestors had, when there were less than 60 million of us. Remember, today’s citizen is virtually devoid of the skills and assets necessary for survival without today’s infrastructure. An extended blackout (which is all but certain) effecting the entire continental U.S., plus parts of Canada, and Mexico, will result in the death of a large fraction of the American people, through the effects of societal collapse, disease, starvation, exposure, and the very possible effects of radioactive contamination, from nuclear reactors of all kinds, and the evaporation of fuel rod cooling pools. Thus, our government estimates casualties in the U.S. after an sufficient EMP attack to be 90% in the following year.

          You can study many of the pertinent reports by searching “Congress Military Reports on EMP.”

          These reports should be thorough enough for most, even without the access to the classified data.

          If anyone has more questions, just ask.

  6. A good summation of a CME from SpaceWeatherLive:

    A coronal mass ejection (or CME) is a giant cloud of solar plasma drenched with magnetic field lines that is blown away from the Sun often during strong, long-duration solar flares and filament eruptions. Coronal mass ejections are the prime source of strong geomagnetic storms when aimed at Earth and thus are very important to keep an eye on.

  7. Great article Ken. Think everyone should be keeping a closer eye on this. Odds of a big one hitting us dead on is certainly small, but would without a doubt be a life altering event for the planet. Three X class just a few weeks into the year is pretty impressive, and certainly increases the odds of something catastrophic happening.

  8. Well, I certainly do not understand all this. It would seem to me that a solar flare would have to last 24 hours to hit the whole world. If it was a 6-hour coronal mass ejection wouldn’t that only affect 1/4 of the planet? They sell whole house EMP disconnects but if the magnetic field goes through your house won’t your wires burn anyway? If you lay a powered electric cord over a magnet, does it get hot? What was the effect of the Carrington event in Australia, India, Africa? When a Faraday cage protects a product does the field simply go around it to ground? Does ground/earth stop it?

    I know so little!

    1. Sam:

      The Carrington event took place in 1859, when modern civilization was not dependent upon electrical power, and used it mostly for communications, like the telegraph. Even so, the effect caused sparking, and several fires, in telegraph stations.

      But, we do not depend upon analysis of The Carrington Event for our complete understanding of either CMEs or EMPs. Experiments have been conducted to determine the various effects and their nature, even using nuclear devices to do so.

      Everything depends on the nature of a solar flare hitting the Earth and its ability to cause damage. Naturally, the larger the flare, the more precisely it impacts the Earth, and the greater the charge impacting our radiation belts, results in various effects, as the Earth continues to rotate under the impacting CME.

      As history already shows, most CMEs are not of the size required to produce catastrophic damage, the very large X+ flares are fewer, and those we have been seeing have not been aimed at Earth, it only takes ONE repeat of a Carrington sized flare to shut us down…and depending on the extent of the event…possibly for a very long time. Such an event would effect a massive portion of the Earth’s surface, and I do not count on being lucky…such as it only effecting the Pacific region of the globe.

    2. Sam,
      With a CME from the sun, there are a lot of fluctuating magnetic currents. this is what causes electricity to be produced in wires. (an electric generator uses turning wire coils in a magnetic field to produce electrical power). As Ision said, it depends on the size of the CME. It may hit one side of the earth, but the magnetic fluxes could envelope the earth and cause widespread damage. Any long wires (think powerlines, antennas) would be affected by the magnetic flux and produce electrical current (mostly DC current), and it is these that can cause high heating in all it travels through. The current will flow through wires if they make a complete circuit, and will heat up. If you unplug all your appliances so there is no circuit, it will help for sure. Question is will we have time to do this?? there are still a lot of unknowns as Ision said.

    3. sam, CME is a complicated subject. I find it interesting that solar surface activity begins years earlier deeper in the Sun. These big events are cyclical, and as one commentor has stated, we’re reaching the peak of solar cycle 25 activity in the next year or two. CMEs vary in size, duration, matter, direction of twist, and velocity. A very fast moving CME can reach the Earth in less than a day. A CME starts at a point and then expands in volume as it moves outward. It’s more like the cone of light shining from a standard flashlight than a laser pointer. At our distance from the Sun, it’s possible for the Earth to take days to completely travel through a CME, resulting in a continuous bombardment and charging of the atmosphere. My worry for CMEs is that if one of the big ones hit us just right for long enough, we might just be toast. The authorities might manage to shut down all electrical transmission. However, the power lines from the huge arteries at the dams and power plants to the tiny capillaries snaking through our houses are designed to carry electrical current. The massive current that a CME can produce might well flare all existing lines, causing fires in forests, prairies, manufacturing plants, and houses. A British friend (with an old stone house) once commented that we Americans lived in houses made of kindling. Discussions like this one remind me of her observation. My prep for this is a shipping container with a walk door and a window. Just in case the house burns down. And lots of fire extinguishers.

  9. I see this as yet another argument to avoid purchasing an all electric home. My first and present home had/have a mix of gas and electric appliances. The idea that some politicians want to outlaw natural gas appliances along with changes in automobiles from IC engines to all electric scares the bejesus out of me. Fortunately, the supply chain difficulties will moderate the change-over. (not enough Lithium, cobalt or Rare Earth magnet material in friendly countries) As an older citizen, I have trouble accepting change in general. As a person the studied Economics, I would like to point out that change is inevitable but that changeover should be done slowly as rapid change is usually a result of major disruption like: earthquake, natural disaster or war. A consequence of a major disruption: People die. Even in the absence of major disruption, the labor force has to go back to trade schools to be retrained in the new technology. This is not helped by the changes made by politicians in power that create funding for a training program only to have their predecessor cut funding for the same training program several years later. (no surprise that the laws cannot keep up with the technology).

  10. It’s interesting to observe the progression of solar cycle 25. Here’s an image/graph showing sunspot activity as of today:

    1. I wish that had the prediction track over the past cycles just for curiosity sake, be interesting to compare predicted vs actual

    1. Wasn’t aware that anyone said something was going to happen on January 10th.

      We do not know the day, the hour, when a Carrington-event will happen next. But we do know, it will.

  11. Hoo Wee Baby! It’s getting spicy out there and we haven’t yet reached the solar max of the current solar cycle. Couple of quotes from spaceweather.com today. “There’s a spot on the farside of the sun so large it is affecting the way the whole sun vibrates.” and “Two days ago, a bright CME rocketed away from the farside of the sun. Its plane-of-sky speed in SOHO coronagraph images exceeded 1,500 km/s (3.4 million mph) . . . this CME was a fast-mover.”

    1. Wow, I just checked it out. That was a big un! We are very fortunate that it occurred on the far side of the sun. Sooner or later, that big ball of fire is gonna zap us for sure..

      “This was definitely a big event,” says George Ho of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, co-principal investigator for the Energetic Particle Detector suite onboard Solar Orbiter.

      “During the 1989 Quebec blackout, it was this type of shock-driven particle increase during the CME arrival that knocked off the power,”

  12. Ken at all, Check out today’s spaceweather.com. “ POSSIBLE EARTH-DIRECTED CME: A CME might be heading for Earth following the eruption of a magnetic filament during the late hours of July 28th. . . . ETA: July 31-Aug. 1st.” It’s not yesterday’s S-class that hit today.

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