Maybe it’s nothing at all! Maybe. Still, I have enough room in my thoughts to consider this, even if the probability is low. I don’t think anyone has the expertise to say for sure one way or the other.
A real analysis would involve probability distributions over solar energy flux and expensive tests on electronic equipment.
This is a good test case for our reasoning on global risk probabilities — are we quick to make unqualified judgments, or are we willing to spend the time to find the facts?
A commenter pointed out that scientists actually predict that this solar maximum will be the least intense since 1928, but this prediction is meaningless because below-average solar maxima can still be extremely intense:
“If our prediction is correct, Solar Cycle 24 will have a peak sunspot number of 90, the lowest of any cycle since 1928 when Solar Cycle 16 peaked at 78,” says panel chairman Doug Biesecker of the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center.
It is tempting to describe such a cycle as “weak” or “mild,” but that could give the wrong impression.
“Even a below-average cycle is capable of producing severe space weather,” points out Biesecker. “The great geomagnetic storm of 1859, for instance, occurred during a solar cycle of about the same size weâ€™re predicting for 2013.”
Does this mean that every 13 years is a significant danger? If so, then that lowers my estimated probability of disaster significantly. The problem is that I’ve switched my opinion back and forth already based on the evidence, and I have no way of knowing if this will continue.