Storm Planets

We’ve been reminded often enough recently of the terrible, destructive power of Earth-based natural disasters: ash-spewing volcanic eruptions, ferocious hurricanes and tornadoes, raging forest fires that destroy everything in their path, and floods and tsunamis that wash away whole communities.

As if all that weren’t bad enough, now we learn about another frightening natural phenomenon, this one arriving on Earth from space: from our own life-giving Sun. And while extra-terrestrial Doomsday scenarios often seem far-fetched or hypothetical, this one, unfortunately, is not.

The story of this threat from outer space, against which there is no current defence, is told in the shocking, fact-based documentary film Cosmic Fire, the  premiere episode of a remarkable new three-part TV series from Toronto-based yap films called STORM PLANETS, premiering on History Television on Monday, April 26 at 9 pm ET/PT.   

Using stunning CGI, Cosmic Fire imagines the cataclysmic effects such a major solar storm would have on our planet. It’s a fascinating, awesome, horrifying and revelatory viewing experience. Watching it, viewers will become aware of the forces beyond this planet that can strike with deadly global effect, literally ‘out of the blue’.

The reason Cosmic Fire is so attention-grabbing is that the destructive phenomenon it describes has already happened here on Earth 150 years ago. It was recorded by amateur English astronomer Richard Carrington on September 2, 1856. Carrington was the first live witness of an explosion of storms on the solar surface. His momentous discovery has become known as The Carrington Event.

What Carrington chronicled was a solar storm, or Coronal Mass Ejection, and its spectacular effects on Earth.  It created awesome displays of the Northern Lights. But, even in that pre-technological era, its destructive force was felt around the world. As renowned English historian/astronomer Dr. Stuart Clark (who is featured in Cosmic Fire) writes,  “Telegraph systems crashed, machines burst into flames, and electric shocks rendered operators unconscious. Compasses and other sensitive instruments reeled as if struck by a massive magnetic fist. For the first time, people began to suspect that the Earth was not isolated from the rest of the universe”.

Major solar storms seem to follow periods when solar activity has been in a lull, building up and then exploding ferociously. That’s what we now know happened in the decades leading up to 1856. Ominously, the Sun’s activity over the past few decades has been similarly quiet, increasing the odds that a major solar event is on the horizon.

With a major solar storm likely to reoccur, this time the results could be devastating. Should a solar storm of such apocalyptic proportions again strike Earth, it would destroy large parts of the world’s electric grid, thrusting our civilization back into the Steam Age and resulting in millions of casualties, as our modern technological infrastructure crumbled.

Following Cosmic Fire, the other episodes of STORM PLANETS, Deadly Dust on May 3 and Alien Wind on May 10, will look at what would happen if and when the wildest examples of extra-terrestrial wind and dust come to Earth. Life imitates art in Deadly Dust, as CGI-imagined scenarios of airplanes flying through dust storms are eerily similar to real situations the past few days about the dangers to planes as a result of Earth’s atmosphere being loaded with dangerous ash from the Icelandic volcano eruption.