Let's presume there's a world much like ours in the not so distant future, but as time goes by storms become stronger and more frequent. That as far as I understand this is already something related to global warming, but what (vaguely scientific process caused by either nature or pollution of some sort) could make the storms both more erratic and also temporarily suppress electronics too? This behaviour, importantly, cannot harm people, only temporarily disable electronics.

I'm aware that this is a difficult idea to render, so I'm willing to give some leeway about what exactly it does, but the point is that when a storm comes people have to stop using their devices and switch everything off, or just wait for it to pass before they can operate normally again.

  • $\begingroup$ What do you mean by "suppress electronics"? Electricity is an on/off thing. Electronic devices work until the magic smoke comes out, then they don't work. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Jun 2 '16 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ @frostfyre There are wasy to stop them from working until resolved, Like dirty water leaving behind stuff that can carry electricity on the circut boards, effectively ruining the area until properly cleaned. Splill a Sugary soda on a keyboard and have significant issues. Clean it with Pure water and it can work again if your careful and do it correctly. Imagine if the air could be charged so much that electricity can jump through it to different parts of the circuit board, effectively doing the same thing. $\endgroup$
    – Ryan
    Jun 2 '16 at 16:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If by suppress you mean something more like "interference" or "static" then I can think of a couple of ways you could modify for your world $\endgroup$
    – Culyx
    Jun 2 '16 at 16:48
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I'm a little confused. Do you want to create an EMP field and wreck electronics, or do you want to simply interfere with wireless communications? $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Jun 2 '16 at 16:56
  • $\begingroup$ I'd like the answer to be something which either switches off or interferes with to the point where the devices are inoperable for the duration. I'm aware that this is a difficult idea to render, so I'm willing to give some leeway about what exactly it does, but the point is that when a storm comes people have to stop using their devices and switch everything off, or just wait for it to pass before they can operate normally again. $\endgroup$ Jun 2 '16 at 17:29

I have an answer for both shutting off and interference:

The conditions in your storms are different from ours, what that cause is will be up to you however the hand waving for interference could well be one of cloud makeup; either chemical (not just water vapor), or perhaps the dust and debris that humidity condensates onto in the upper atmosphere (for your world this dust could be metallic in origin, etc.)

In response to your comment on the nature of the unique atmospheric conditions: I can see a variety of potential issues that could have triggered these new storms, these may vary based on your worlds history of course.

  • Fossil fuels are depleted, many synthetic fuels are created and tested, these leave strange chemical residue in the atmosphere. These new molecules act like tiny radio transmitters when statically charged.
  • Based on my thought that it could be large amounts of metallic dust. This could be suspended in the air via unusual geo-magnetic patterns. Or chemically (Note I'm not a chemist =P) Dihydrogen-Copper molecules were created as a bi-byproduct of industry or as you mention alien origin (meteorites?).

End Addendum

The nature of these clouds produces a lot of wide-band radio noise, effectively blanketing the radio spectrum with static interference. Lightning could also trigger strong bursts of radio noise followed by thunder shock waves that "jostle" the clouds and create additional radio noise.

Shutting Off
You say the world is similar to ours but in the near future. Have they depleted the worlds oil reserves? Did they switch to nuclear power? Solar? Wind? Depending on your world's main power option the power grids capacity may have to be reduced during storms which would necessitate many (not necessarily all) devices being shut off.

Wind is an easy example here. Turbines on large scale wind generators can only spin so fast with out damaging the blades. If the storms are severe enough heavy wind, rain, lightning; it could be that a storm would require wind and solar generation to be switched into "safe mode."

  • $\begingroup$ Can I ask how you would speculate the clouds / atmosphere could be contaminated by what that may have a great affect by radio frequency saturation? I'm intrigued! Could this be a result of, say, unregulated pollution of some variety or would it have to be something completely unorthodox or perhaps chemically alien from meteors or something? $\endgroup$ Jun 2 '16 at 19:00
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    $\begingroup$ @inappropriateCode I've added some more detailed thoughts on the origin of interference $\endgroup$
    – Culyx
    Jun 2 '16 at 19:10

At this Wikipedia page regarding electromagnetic pulses, information is given about electrostatic discharge.

ESD events are characterised by high voltages of many kV but small currents and sometimes cause visible sparks. ESD is treated as a small, localised phenomenon, although technically a lightning flash is a very large ESD event.

The main article on electrostatic discharge says this:

ESD can cause a range of harmful effects of importance in industry, including gas, fuel vapour and coal dust explosions, as well as failure of solid state electronics components such as integrated circuits.

Hope this helps

  • $\begingroup$ Hi James! I'm James...oh man this is going to be a confusing comment. First, welcome to the site. I'd like to point you to the help center and Worldbuilding Chat. Any questions you have about the site can get answered in one of those two places. More specifically on your answer I would recommend you expand a bit. When we answer questions here on the site we generally like to see not only the how but an explanation supporting it. So saying "ESD could do it" is a partial answer, but if you added, "and here is how it would work insert explanation here " you'd have a good answer for the question. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Jun 2 '16 at 18:26

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