Pete Riley a senior scientist and Vice President of Predictive Science in San Diego, California has published the findings of study which calculates that the chances of massive solar storm striking the Earth by 2020, potentially causing widespread disruptions to the power grid, the internet, television and phone services are has high as 1 in 8.

The last such event, the huge 1859 Carrington Event, was so powerful that according to NASA “telegraph systems all over Europe and North America failed, in some cases giving telegraph operators electric shocks.” Records also report that Telegraph pylons began throwing sparks, and curiously, some telegraph operators found they were able to continue sending and receive messages despite having disconnected their power supplies.”

In 2012 scientists became aware of a solar storm approaching the earth of similar magnitude to the Carington Event , but it was a near miss and passed without striking the planet. In June of the following year a joint research project between British researchers and The U.S. Atmospheric and Environmental Research Agency used data from the Carrington Event to estimate that the current cost of damages from a similar event today could be as high as 2.6 trillion dollars in the United States alone.

Within the last 30 years solar storms have been responsible for knocking out Québec’s hydro-electric systems leaving the region without power for 9 hours, they have also have disrupted communications satellites systems causing temporary loss of control and the corruption of on-board data. In August of 1989, a storm was so severe it caused 3 successive failures to the computer systems of the Toronto Stock Exchange forcing the halting of trading for 3 hours. None of these storms were anywhere near the magnitude of the Carrington Event however, which is why NASA predicts a similar event today could send us back to the 18th century for an indefinite period of time.