According to space physicist Pete Riley, a senior scientist at Predictive Science in San Diego, the Earth has a 12% chance of being hit by a megaflare from the sun in the next 10 years. If something like that would happen in could cause trillions of dollars in damage and take a decade to recover.

The last gigantic solar storm occurred 150 years ago. It was known as the Carrington Event. It is the most powerful such event in recorded history.

Solar flares happen all the time on the sun with most going harmlessly into space away from Earth. The sun also goes through an 11 year cycle of increased and decreased activity and according to historical data and calculations a big one is due.

When solar flares hit Earth they cause Auroras, and while the may be beautiful small scale solar flares, a major hit would cause electrical power grids to fail, GPS satellites would be damaged and even radio signals may go black.

In 1989, a geomagnetic storm hit Canada’s Hydro-Quebec power grid and it collapsed in 90 seconds. When the Carrington Event solar flare hit Earth in 1859 telegraph stations caught on fire and networks experienced major outages. If something like that hit Earth today with our dependence on electricity it could cause $1 trillion in damage.

The good thing these days though is that power companies are aware of the possibility of something like this happening and they can take action to soften the blow.

Getty Images, photo by NASA