According to a report in the Seattle Examiner that ran in April 2009....
"According to New Scientist, science’s concern is a repetition of the 8-day 1859 “Carrington event,” a large solar flare accompanied by a coronal mass ejection (CME) that flung billions of tons of solar plasma onto the earth’s magnetosphere and disrupted Victorian-era magnetometers and the world telegraph system.
The New Scientist states, “The report outlines the worst case scenario for the US. The ‘perfect storm’ is most likely on a spring or autumn night in a year of heightened solar activity - something like 2012. Around the equinoxes, the orientation of the Earth's field to the sun makes us particularly vulnerable to a plasma strike.”
The next solar maximum is expected to occur in 2012. New Scientist reports that Mike Hapgood, head of the European Space Agency's space weather team states, "We're in the equivalent of an idyllic summer's day. The sun is quiet and benign, the quietest it has been for 100 years," "but it could turn the other way."
The modern electrical high-power grid magnifies the impact of solar flares. Since the grid is linked into major aspects of modern society, the effects of another Carrington event would be devastating. The National Academy of Sciences report states: “A severe space weather event in the US could induce ground currents that would knock out 300 key transformers within about 90 seconds, cutting off the power for more than 130 million people.” The New Scientist states: “According to the NAS report, the impact of what it terms a "severe geomagnetic storm scenario" could be as high as $2 trillion. And that's just the first year after the storm. The NAS puts the recovery time at four to 10 years. It is questionable whether the US would ever bounce back.”
China, which is installing a high-power electrical grid more vulnerable than that of the U.S., Europe and other developed nations will be similarly impacted.
The solar coronal mass ejection from the 1859 Carrington event arrived on earth in less than 15 minutes, which is faster that our early warning system NASA's Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) can detect.
European Space Agency space weather head Mike Hapgood states, "I don't think the NAS report is scaremongering. “Scientists are conservative by nature and this group is really thoughtful," he says. "This is a fair and balanced report."