(CBS News) — Fears are brewing that an apocalypse is coming. But instead of burning buildings and utter chaos, there’s a monthslong global internet blackout.
The concern comes amid recent solar storm data that has emerged, but is the current activity on the sun really enough to cause what’s been dubbed the “internet apocalypse?”
Videos have been making the rounds on social media claiming that this apocalypse is on its way. One video, which has amassed more than 4 million views on TikTok, claims that a solar storm could cause such an event to happen within the decade.
Despite the trending claims, such an event is thought to only occur once every half-millennium. Here’s what’s actually happening with the sun, and how it can impact communications on Earth.
The sun has been in Solar Cycle 25 since December 2019, meaning its 25th 11-year cycle since record keeping began in 1755. At the beginning of the current cycle, the National Weather Service predicted that peak sunspot activity would happen in 2025, with the overall activity of the cycle being “fairly weak.”
But earlier this month, researchers determined that the cycle has “ramped up much faster” than what was originally predicted, with “more sunspots and eruptions than experts had forecast.”
“Tracking and predicting the Sun’s solar cycles gives a rough idea of the frequency of space weather storms of all types – from radio blackouts to geomagnetic storms and solar radiation storms – and it’s used by many industries to gauge the potential impact of space weather on Earth,” NOAA explains.
With extreme geomagnetic storms – a 5 on the storm scale – “some grid systems may experience complete collapse or blackouts,” NOAA says, and satellite navigation could be down for days while low-frequency radio navigation could be out for hours. These are only expected to occur four times every solar cycle, on average.
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