I understand that a Carrington Event geomagnetic storm could have a serious impact on power grids worldwide. My question is: what impact, if any, might it have on ships at sea?

A modern American aircraft carrier is a city in miniature with its own (nuclear) power supply, and so forth. How might it be impacted by a Carrington event?

Any help concerning this would be most appreciated.

  • $\begingroup$ A Carrington class event is more than just a solar flare. The technical term is a Coronal Mass Ejection. Use that term for your further research. There is, at least, book about the Carrington event. It had some spectacular side-effects. Telegraphic wires were 'live' without any power. $\endgroup$ – a4android Mar 18 '17 at 12:59
  • $\begingroup$ Those events do not appear out of nowhere. The carrier will be warned and will be prepared -- essentially disconnecting electrical circuits. I have no idea how naval nuclear reactors work, maybe they will have to use some ingeniosity to restart them afterwards. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Mar 18 '17 at 21:13

Geomagnetic storms are generated by the interaction of the local magnetic field with the solar wind. To make it simple, the magnetic field vary a lot, and as we know from Maxwell, this induces a current in any loop wire crossed by that field.

Good news: you carrier, despite large, is still smaller than a land city or region, therefore it will intercept a lower portion of the varing magnetic field. The possible induced current is then lower.

Good news 2 Carrier electronics should be designed to protect them against induced currents.

Bad news A carrier is mostly made of steel, which has the ability of reinforcing the magnetic field, unless it has been realized as non ferromagnetic (magnetic mines are a well known thing in warfare). this will partially conflict with the first good news.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. So it would be a matter of either bad luck on the part of the carrier (in terms of the location it's in at the moment of the event) or a truly massive event to impact the ship? $\endgroup$ – jkp1187 Mar 19 '17 at 11:05

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