A large solar storm could cause severe problems with Internet communications, according to a new study by a scientist at the University of California.
The study was presented at the SIGCOMM 2021 conference and its author, Sangeetha Abdu Jyoti, explains in Wired that a solar storm can cause internet interruptions that last up to months, which constitutes “the worst scenario” for the operation of the networks, something that so far has not happened.
The researcher explains that fibre optic cables are immune to the electromagnetic effects of solar storms since these cables transmit data via light. On the other hand, the submarine cables that connect continents could be seriously affected. Beyond the fact that the internet networks at national levels do not suffer significant interruptions, some countries could be disconnected from the rest.
According to Sangeetha Abdu Jyoti, one of the problems scientists face is that there is currently no previous data on how a large solar storm can impact internet networks. Because the last major events of this type occurred in 1859 and 1921, and, at that time, communications via the Internet did not exist.
The author also explains that there is some understanding of how these solar storms affect equipment on land. But on the contrary, there is no data on what could happen to the submarine cables and repeaters through which internet data is transmitted.