Prelims 2022

Q. If a major solar storm (solar flare) reaches the Earth, which of the following are the possible effects on the Earth?

1. GPS and navigation systems could fail.
2. Tsunamis could occur at equatorial regions.
3. Power grids could be damaged.
4. Intense auroras could occur over much of the Earth.
5. Forest fires could take place over much of the planet.
6. Orbits of the satellites could be disturbed.
7. Shortwave radio communication of the aircraft flying over polar regions could be interrupted.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:
a) 1, 2, 4 and 5 only
b) 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7 only
c) 1, 3, 4, 6 and 7 only
d) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7
Correct Answer: 1, 3, 4, 6 and 7 only

Question from UPSC Prelims 2022 GS Paper

Explanation : 

Major solar storm and its potential effects

A major solar storm, also known as a geomagnetic storm, is caused by solar activities like solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that send large amounts of charged particles towards Earth. These particles interact with Earth’s magnetosphere and can have several effects on our planet. Let’s look at each of the listed potential effects:

1. GPS and navigation systems could fail:

Correct. The charged particles can disrupt the signals from GPS satellites, leading to inaccuracies or complete failure of navigation systems that rely on GPS.

2. Tsunamis could occur at equatorial regions:

Incorrect. Tsunamis are caused by underwater earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, or other underwater explosions, and not by solar activity.

3. Power grids could be damaged:

Correct. The geomagnetic currents induced by a solar storm can overload power grids and potentially cause transformers to fail, leading to widespread power outages.

4. Intense auroras could occur over much of the Earth:

Correct. Auroras are typically seen near the polar regions, but a strong solar storm can expand the auroral zone, making auroras visible at lower latitudes.

5. Forest fires could take place over much of the planet:

Incorrect. Forest fires are not directly caused by solar storms. They are typically the result of lightning, human activities, or other natural causes.

6. Orbits of the satellites could be disturbed:

Correct. The increased density of the Earth’s atmosphere during a solar storm can increase drag on satellites in low Earth orbit, potentially altering their paths.

7. Shortwave radio communication of the aircraft flying over polar regions could be interrupted:

Correct. The ionospheric disturbances caused by solar storms can disrupt high-frequency (HF) radio communications, which are often used by aircraft flying over the poles where satellite communication can be unreliable.

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