eritage Report Warns U.S. Not Ready for EMP Attack
The threat of an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) attack on the country is something the United States is not prepared for, according to a recent report by two national experts for the Heritage Foundation.
It is important to know that EMP destruction of systems and service could occur not just through a planned attack by another country, but also from the sun, in which case the devastation would be world-wide. More on that below.
EMP caused by attack from another country
The Chinese military has been warning since before the 9/11 attack that it was developing methods to shut down communications and the power grid using EMP. (see report to Congress on Chinese military 2010) (see Heritage report 2010 on what was UNSAID in the report)
See also: World Net Daily: “Report warns Obama about “New Dark Ages”
Here are some of the potential, devastating impacts of EMP on the country:
An EMP attack on the country would first and foremost, knock out the power grid, with an inevitable “ripple” effect through substations nationwide. The report looks to the 1977 blackout in New York City, which lasted only one day:Losing Infrastructure.
The blackout in New York City resulted in an immediate breakdown of the social order. The police were outmatched and had no chance of stopping such massive theft, largely having no choice but to stand by watching the looters from a distance. In North Brooklyn, a community of more than a million residents, only 189 police officers were on duty. The New York Police Department was completely overwhelmed in its efforts to preserve order. The social order degenerated so quickly that Time magazine called it a “Night of Terror.”
There were many of explanations for the sudden violence in the aftermath of the blackout, with justifications ranging from racial animosities to culture, even to weather, but the simple fact is that during disaster, “‘under stress’ or ‘exceptional circumstances,’ the poor saw ‘no reason to play by the rules.’” This astounding amount of violence occurred in the course of a single day. After an EMP attack, cities will likely lose power for weeks and months, and the National Guard cannot occupy every major city.”
The effects of EMP will immediately disable a portion of the 130 million cars and some 90 million trucks. Since millions of vehicles are on the road at any given time, there will be accidents and congestion that will impede movement, particularly in large metropolitan areas. Stoplights and train crossing signals will shut down or malfunction.Since many trains rely on electricity, they would be severely impacted. Tracking systems for airplanes in flight would be knocked out. The report says many planes themselves could literally fall from the air because their controls would be fried. Boats at sea would suffer similar communication breakdowns, cranes at loading docks which rely heavily on computers and sensors would be unable to operate.
The nation’s food supply would be impacted due to loss of refrigeration and breakdown of warehousing subsystems.
“The U.S. communications infrastructure will suffer severe disruption in an EMP assault. The crucial role that telecommunication plays in the health and well-being of modern society cannot be overstated.The Heritage report says fiber optic cable is resistant to EMP attack so facilities with fiber are more likely to survive. However, the burden on the remaining communications network during a national emergency would likely overwhelm the surviving equipment.
What to do?
Recent disasters suggest an important to-do list for handling EMP threats:EMP caused by solar “flare” or coroneal mass ejection
- Prevent the threat. Regardless of the mitigation and response measures, a massive EMP impact could have a devastating impact on the United States. Washington must pursue an aggressive protect-and-defend strategy, including comprehensive missile defense; modernizing the U.S. nuclear deterrent; and adopting proactive nonproliferation and counterproliferation measures, both unilaterally and in partnership with allies.
- Provide resilience. Measures must be adopted to ensure the resilience of the U.S.–Canadian electrical grid and telecommunications systems, including developing limited redundancy and identifying means for the timely replacement of essential damaged parts or their rapid substitution.
- Plan for the unthinkable. The U.S. must have robust pre-disaster planning—with practical exercises that include top officials who rehearse a wide variety of contingency scenarios—that integrates federal, state, local, private-sector, non-governmental organizations, and international support.
- Protect the capacity to communicate. The U.S. must have the means to establish assured emergency broadcast as well as interactive communications both within the U.S. and across the globe. An EMP strike can easily obliterate America’s electrical, telecommunications, transportation, financial, food, and water infrastructures, rendering the United States helpless to coordinate actions and deliver services essential for daily life. In the words of Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, EMP “is one of only a few ways that the United States could be defeated by its enemies.” The time to prepare is now.
Anthony Watts’ WattsUpWithThat website carried this frightening post on the subject of a solar flare causing an EMP attack last year: “ Compared to the sun’s energy, we are a fly speck on an elephant’s butt.”
“When the ejection reaches the Earth as an ICME (Interplanetary CME), it may disrupt the Earth’s magnetosphere, compressing it on the day side and extending the night-side tail. When the magnetosphere reconnects on the nightside, it creates trillions of watts of power which is directed back toward the Earth’s upper atmosphere. This process can cause particularly strong aurora also known as the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis (in the Northern Hemisphere), and the Southern Lights, or aurora australis (in the Southern Hemisphere). CME events, along with solar flares, can disrupt radio transmissions, cause power outages (blackouts), and cause damage to satellites and electrical transmission lines.The last known solar flare of any magnitude to affect earth was the so-called “Carrington Event” in 1859. Recognizing, of course, that there was very little high-tech equipment available to be destroyed in those days, the impact was still quite devastating even then.
Bye bye modern society. While the sun is quiet now, don’t discount the potential for something like this to happen. The likelihood of such an event is far greater than that of an asteroid strike. If it does happen, the only electronics likely to be working afterward are tube radios, and a 57 Chevy or earlier automobile. (no electronics, just electromechanical). “
English astronomer Richard Carrington happened to see the bright white flashes coming from the sun through his telescope.
NASA.gov via Royal Astronomical Society:
Just before dawn the next day, skies all over planet Earth erupted in red, green, and purple auroras so brilliant that newspapers could be read as easily as in daylight. Indeed, stunning auroras pulsated even at near tropical latitudes over Cuba, the Bahamas, Jamaica, El Salvador, and Hawaii.Space weather.com noted solar flares of some size this summer and fall and has registered more this weekend:
Even more disconcerting, telegraph systems worldwide went haywire. Spark discharges shocked telegraph operators and set the telegraph paper on fire. Even when telegraphers disconnected the batteries powering the lines, aurora-induced electric currents in the wires still allowed messages to be transmitted.
“What Carrington saw was a white-light solar flare—a magnetic explosion on the sun,” explains David Hathaway, solar physics team lead at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
“A gust of solar wind hit Earth’s magnetic field on Saturday, Nov. 27th, sparking a brief but intense geomagnetic storm around the Arctic Circle. Onlookers described “an explosion of Northern Lights” and a “huge outburst of auroras” that turned the heavens vivid green. One day later, the sky was still glowing, as shown in this Sunday night snapshot from Kvaløya, an island near Tromsø, Norway.”