"This was a high level of particle radiation, ten times more than has been observed in the last 70 years", Raimund Muscheler, of Lund University in Sweden, said. "If..."
This is only the third major solar storm event to be documented.
The team of scientists, which examined the chemicals preserved in Greenland ice sheet, concluded that the storm was almost 10 times stronger than anything detected in past 70 years of modern measurements. The cores come from Greenland and contain ice formed over the past 100,000 years.
In 1859, a powerful geomagnetic storm-now known as the Carrington Event-caused by a coronal mass ejection hit Earth, causing widespread electrical disruptions and blackouts. With their research, the team aims to help people prepare for future giant solar storms, which could shut down global communication systems, air traffic systems, and satellites. The researchers believe that society might not be sufficiently prepared if a similar event were to happen now.
The sun is constantly sending a stream of charged particles toward Earth via the solar wind.
Scientists just found evidence of one of the largest solar storms ever detected, which hit Earth roughly 2,600 years ago, in an unlikely place: Greenland's ice cores. Two examples of severe solar storms in modern times that caused extensive power outages took place in Quebec, Canada, (1989) and Malmö, Sweden (2003).
Further research using both ice cores and growth rings in old trees confirmed two other massive solar storms that struck the Earth in 775 and 994 AD.
"Even though these massive solar storms are rare, our discovery shows that they are a naturally recurring effect of solar activity", he added.
"That's why we must increase society's protection against solar storms", said Prof Muscheler. He argues that there is a need for greater awareness of the possibility of very strong solar storms and the vulnerability of society.
While the most serious consequences for those living in 660 BC was just a stunning display or aurora borealis or australis, northern and southern lights respectively, things would be completely different for us today.