The Washington Post

Solar flares; sun storms: what, me worry?

(Correction: An earlier version of this post said Joel did not worry about turning into a little “critter.” Blame it on the difficulty of finding a good typist to take down dictation.)

I’m not worried about the sun today because I’ve been watching it as I drive up I-95 and it looks just fine to me. Also, there’s some high clouds that look as if they’ll protect me from being irradiated and turned into a little fritter.


A NASA color-coded image shows several extreme ultraviolet wavelength sun flares. (AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

I’m also not worried about a supernova or an asteroid hitting us from space or getting whacked by a comet. And I’m not really worried about an anomalous 1,000-year earthquake shattering the East Coast.

But bad things do happen, things go awry and every day is not guaranteed to be precisely like we planned it to be.

I’m not much help since I’m on the road today. But here’s a primer on some of my past disaster stories that may or may not help you prepare for the unknown:

Black Swan events: what happens when the unlikely — and the calamitous — happens?

Is our power grid prepared for a solar flare onslaught?

Are we living in the century of disasters?

And even if this solar flare doesn’t turn out to be a big deal, remember to stock up on some fresh water, canned goods and extra batteries.


View Photo Gallery: From deadly blizzards to a devastating tsunami, 2011 brought some of the most extreme natural disasters.

Joel Achenbach writes on science and politics for the Post's national desk and on the "Achenblog."

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