Wired magazine has an interesting and somewhat alarming article about the solar max of 2012:

The Geomantic Apocalypse- and How To Stop It

For scary speculation about the end of civilization in 2012, people usually turn to followers of cryptic Mayan prophecy, not scientists. But that’s exactly what a group of NASA-assembled researchers described in a chilling report issued earlier this year on the destructive potential of solar storms.

Entitled “Severe Space Weather Events — Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts,” it describes the consequences of solar flares unleashing waves of energy that could disrupt Earth’s magnetic field, overwhelming high-voltage transformers with vast electrical currents and short-circuiting energy grids. Such a catastrophe would cost the United States “$1 trillion to $2 trillion in the first year,” concluded the panel, and “full recovery could take four to 10 years.” That would, of course, be just a fraction of global damages.

Needless to say, shorting out the electrical grid would cause major disruptions to developed nations and their economies.

Worse yet, the next period of intense solar activity is expected in 2012, and coincides with the presence of an unusually large hole in Earth’s geomagnetic shield, meaning we’ll have less protection than usual from the solar flares.

The report received relatively little attention, perhaps because of 2012’s supernatural connotations. Mayan astronomers supposedly predicted that 2012 would mark the calamitous “birth of a new era.”

Sad that people are concentrating more on imaginary disasters then on things they could take steps to fix before they are destroyed. Like our power grid, for example:

Wired.com: Why is [the national power grid] so vulnerable?

Joseph: Ultra-high voltage transformers become more finicky as energy demands are greater. Around 50 percent already can’t handle the current they’re designed for. A little extra current coming in at odd times can slip them over the edge.

The ultra-high voltage transformers, the 500,000- and 700,000-kilovolt transformers, are particularly vulnerable. The United States uses more of these than anyone else. China is trying to implement some million-kilovolt transformers, but I’m not sure they’re online yet.

Kappenman also points out that when the transformers blow, they can’t be fixed in the field. They often can’t be fixed at all. Right now there’s a one- to three-year lag time between placing an order and getting a new one.

Hey, President Obama- 2012 is going to be on your watch, sir. How about a little preemptive money to prevent us from being in the dark when it comes time for the election. You saw it here first.

Will we curse the darkness? Hide and watch, y'all.