Solar storm ‘could black out Britain and cost £16 billion’, Met Office warns

Rob Waugh
Britain is particularly vulnerable the Met Office has warned (Getty)

A solar storm could knock out power grids in Britain, damaging computers and costing the country £16 billion in damage, the Met Office has warned.

The Met Office says that Britain is highly vulnerable due to our reliance on satellite technology – and needs to be better prepared.

The warning comes days after it was reported that a huge solar storm had set off bombs during the Vietnam War.

The Met Office suggests that Britain should build a satellite ‘early warning system’ to protect against powerful solar storms.

It said: ‘We find that for a one-in-100-year event, with no space weather forecasting capability, the gross domestic product loss to the United Kingdom could be as high as £15.9bn.

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‘With existing satellites nearing the end of their life, forecasting capability will decrease in coming years, so if no further investment takes place, critical infrastructure will become more vulnerable to space weather.’

Researchers warned last year that a ‘super solar storm’ could burn out power stations, cut water supplies, and leave satellites dead in the skies.

The only account of a ‘super storm’ striking Earth comes from more than 150 years ago – when a Victorian scientist, Richard Carrington, described an eruption known as ‘the Carrington event’.

In 1859, there were no telephones and satellites, but the power of the storm devastated communications – telegraph wires around the world burnt out, and some operators reported sheets of paper catching fire.