by Kevin Hayden
January 02, 2013
originally posted August 22, 2011
An EMP, or
Electro Magnetic Pulse, is generated from the detonation
of a nuclear device or quite possibly, extreme solar activity, such
as that which was experienced in 1859, 1989, and as recent as 1994.
The US Government and military have
studied these phenomenon extensively and several reports have been
issued regarding EMP effects on,
In this report, we’ll cover many
of the topics discussed and researched in regards to geomagnetic
anomalies, solar storm activity, and the effects of an
It should be noted, however, that
Congress has largely ignored the EMP Commission’s warnings and our
hospitals, trucking industry, and critical infrastructure remain
In the late summer of 1859, a great solar storm hit the planet. This
storm was the product of a coronal mass ejection from the Sun. While
the science and physics behind these coronal ejections is
interesting, it can also be long winded for some readers so I’ll
keep this brief.
Once in a while - exactly when, scientists still cannot predict - an
event occurs on the surface of the Sun that releases a tremendous
amount of energy in the form of a solar flare or a coronal mass
ejection, an explosive burst of very hot, electrified gases with a
mass that can surpass that of Mount Everest.
I encourage you to research this more if
you would like a deeper understanding of the charged plasma that is
ejected from the Sun’s surface occasionally.
What you need to realize is that these solar storms are not only
electrically and magnetically charged, but they bring radiation -
across the spectrum, from microwave radiation to gamma rays.
On September 1st and 2nd, 1859, Earth’s inhabitants experienced the
greatest solar storm in recorded history.
The electrical grid was in it’s infancy,
consisting mainly of a few telegraph wires in larger cities. This
storm short circuited the wires and caused massive fires. The
typical light show in the far north, known as the Aurora Borealis,
was seen as far south as Cuba, Rome and Hawaii.
Due to society’s
minor dependence on any form of an electrical grid at the time, this
did not disrupt the world substantially.
In 1989 and 1994, minor solar storms knocked out communication
satellites, shut down power plants, and disrupted the electrical
grid. These were minor solar flares. Imagine if a solar storm the
size of 1859′s struck our modern society.
Delicate wires run everywhere nowadays. Filaments, computer chips,
hard drives, cell phones, and electrical lines that stretch
thousands of miles. Have you stopped to think about your vehicle’s
computer system? The details might surprise you.
We’ll get to that in a minute, but
first, let’s talk briefly about a man-made version of the Perfect
Solar Storm - the
nuclear EMP event.
Electromagnetic Pulse Attack
According to the 2004 Commission to Assess the Threat to the United
States of EMP Attack (Executive
“Several potential adversaries have
or can acquire the capability to attack the United States with a
high-altitude nuclear weapon-generated electromagnetic pulse (EMP).
A determined adversary can achieve an EMP attack capability
without having a high level of sophistication.”
It goes on to briefly address the
“EMP is one of a small number of
threats that can hold our society at risk of catastrophic
consequences. EMP will cover the wide geographic region within
line of sight to the nuclear weapon.
It has the capability to
produce significant damage to critical infrastructures and thus
to the very fabric of US society…”
The Commission’s chairman has testified
that within one year of such an attack, 70% - 90% of Americans would
be dead from such causes as disease and violence. It is also highly
plausible that many Americans would die of starvation due to the
interruption of the national food supply.
According to the Washington Department of Health, Office of
“A 1.4 Megaton bomb launched about
250 miles above Kansas would destroy most of the electronics
that were not protected in the entire Continental United
So, as you can see, both a massive solar
storm and an EMP event could quite possibly end civilization as we
I know that sounds drastic, but in the
United States and other technologically advanced countries, how
would the mass population handle a prolonged event with very little
or quite possibly, no electricity?
As the Commission noted, our society is
utterly dependent on our electrical grid for everything.
Trucking and transportation,
including food delivery
Gas stations and oil refineries
Information and communications
Commercial production of food
Water purification and delivery
Most of our military capability
These are only a handful of things that
we take for granted because they are always there.
If the gas stations were out of order,
and no refineries able to produce more fuel, can you imagine how
quickly our “civilized society” would break down? With that event
alone, grocery store shelves become empty within a matter of days
and farmers can’t transport any goods.
If you were not aware,
grocery stores do not stock much extra produce or food “in the back
of the store.”
In order to achieve a higher profit
margin, stores maintain only a few days worth of staples until
another shipment arrives. This not only conserves space, but allows
for them to keep their overhead lower, among other things.
Once the gas stops flowing and the shelves are wiped clean, how long
will your neighbor remain civil?
Several tests and scenarios (not to mention common sense) have shown
that cell phones will be one of the first tell-tale signs of an
electromagnetic event because of the enormous percentage of the
population carrying one. If the power grid were to simply go down
due to weather or regional outage, this wouldn’t immediately effect
Depending on your location, your local
cell towers have back-up power systems.
However, those cell towers,
their emergency power supplies, and your cell phone will all be
disabled after an electromagnetic event, offering you a clue as to
what has just happened.
The Commission went on to assess just how our society would be
impacted from an EMP event, including how well cars and trucks can
handle the burst of electromagnetic waves.
The Automobile and
[brief excerpt from the Commission's
“Over the past century, our society
and economy have developed in tandem with the automobile and
trucking industries. As a consequence, we have become highly
dependent on these infrastructures for maintaining our way of
Our land-use patterns, in particular, have been enabled by the
automobile and trucking infrastructures. Distances between
suburban housing developments, shopping centers, schools, and
employment centers enforce a high dependence on the automobile.
Suburbanites need their cars to get food from the grocery store,
go to work, shop, obtain medical care, and myriad other
activities of daily life. Rural Americans are just as dependent
on automobiles, if not more so. Their needs are similar to those
of suburbanites, and travel distances are greater. To the extent
that city dwellers rely on available mass transit, they are less
dependent on personal automobiles.
But mass transit has been
largely supplanted by automobiles, except in a few of our
As much as automobiles are important to maintaining our way of
life, our very lives are dependent on the trucking industry. The
heavy concentration of our population in urban and suburban
areas has been enabled by the ability to continuously supply
food from farms and processing centers far removed.
As we noted
above, cities typically have a food supply of only several days
available on grocery shelves for their customers.
Replenishment of that food supply depends on a continuous flow
of trucks from food processing centers to food distribution
centers to warehouses and to grocery stores and restaurants. If
urban food supply flow is substantially interrupted for an
extended period of time, hunger and mass evacuation, even
starvation and anarchy, could result.
Trucks also deliver other essentials. Fuel delivered to
metropolitan areas through pipelines is not accessible to the
public until it is distributed by tanker trucks to gas stations.
Garbage removal, utility repair operations, fire equipment, and
numerous other services are delivered using specially outfitted
trucks. Nearly 80 percent of all manufactured goods at some
point in the chain from manufacturer to consumer are transported
The consequences of an EMP attack on the automobile and trucking
infrastructures would differ for the first day or so and in the
An EMP attack will certainly immediately disable a
portion of the 130 million cars and 90 million trucks in
operation in the United States. Vehicles disabled while
operating on the road can be expected to cause accidents.
modern traffic patterns, even a very small number of disabled
vehicles or accidents can cause debilitating traffic jams.
Moreover, failure of electronically based traffic control
signals will exacerbate traffic congestion in metropolitan
In the aftermath of an EMP attack that occurs during working
hours, with a large number of people taking to the road at the
same time to try to get home, we can expect extreme traffic
Vulnerability of the Automobile and Trucking Infrastructures
The Commission tested the EMP susceptibility of traffic light
controllers, automobiles, and trucks.
The summary of the tests conclude that traffic light controllers
will begin to malfunction following exposure to EMP fields as low as
a few kV/m, thereby causing traffic congestion.
For automobiles, approximately 10% of the vehicles on the road will
stop, at least temporarily, thereby possibly triggering accidents,
as well as congestion, at field levels above 25k V/m. For vehicles
that were turned off during the testing, none suffered serious
effects and were able to be started.
Of the trucks that were not running during EMP exposure,
subsequently affected during the test. Thirteen of the 18 trucks
exhibited a response while running. Most seriously, three of the
truck motors stopped. Two could be restarted immediately, but one
required towing to a garage for repair.
The other 10 trucks that responded
exhibited relatively minor temporary responses that did not require
driver intervention to correct. Five of the 18 trucks tested did not
exhibit any anomalous response up to field strengths of
In regards to the airline industry,
“Although commercial aircraft have
proven EM protection against naturally occurring EM environments
[such as lightning], we cannot confirm safety of flight
following [severe or hostile] EMP exposure.
Moreover, if the
complex air traffic control system is damaged by EMP,
restoration of full services could take months or longer.”
It should be clearly noted and
understood that these tests only involved pulses up to 50k V/m.
Russia, the United States and several
other countries are speculated to have weapons that can produce
100-200k V/m in purpose-built EMP warheads. One of the early tests
in nuclear detonation and EMP study was called Starfish Prime. This
event knocked out streetlights as far away as Hawaii and was rated
at a measly 5.6k V/m.
Another potential problem, this time with solar storms, is that EMPs
last only milliseconds and can be presumed to be rated no more than
the typical 50k V/m.
Coronal mass ejections from the Sun and
X-Flares (X being the highest on
the scale of intensity) can last
for several minutes and have dire consequences should it hit the
Earth. EMPs are also rather regional. One single EMP could effect
the entire continental United States, but we might be able to rely
on Britain or other countries to help us out.
During a large enough solar storm, it
might very well engulf the entire planet as the magnetic field
surrounds the Earth.
What to Expect
After the Lights Go Out
In conclusion, depending on the technology used, you have a decent
chance that should an EMP or solar storm occur while you are driving
home from work, you will be able to make it home as long as you are
careful to avoid collisions.
It boils down to terrain, distance and
strength. Once home, however, it is an entirely different story!
There will be no more fuel available
There will be no more food and
water for purchase
There will be no more iPhone or internet
you do find these things, what will be the price? Your dollars will
likely mean nothing to anyone with common sense. The art of
bartering will very quickly take on a new importance for your own
If this event were to occur, you could count on a very prolonged
period of great civil unrest, riots, theft and wide spread violence.
Repairs will be very slow and new parts
for the large generators and power plants will likely have to be
manufactured overseas and delivered to the United States.
Furthermore, these foreign factories would have to retool their
machines to create the specific part that we need if they are not
already our supplier. And that is if the other industrialized
nations aren’t effected, as well.
As for the military and police, you can expect high numbers of
deserters, placing an even greater strain on the limited resources
of government order.
From my personal experience of being a
New Orleans police officer before, during, and after Hurricane
Katrina, I witnessed 1/4 of the police department simply walk away
the first day, with final numbers nearing 1/2 of the department
having gone AWOL by the time the lights came back on.
Some chose to leave for family reasons
while others left due to stress. I saw how quickly those we entrust
with public safety can become an armed street gang and simply take
what you have at gun point.
These are all valid topics to consider
when speaking about an event such as an EMP or severe solar storm.
These are valid points even when the disaster is very localized,
such as Hurricane Katrina was.
If you would like to learn more details about the actual tests,
continue reading below.
It should be noted that I have received several emails since this
article was first published in August of 2010 in regards to real
world power values of the EMP. Many readers have noted that the
Congressional tests were below what a severe storm or EMP could
If this is the case, you could expect to see a more diverse
range of problems and vehicles that may not function.
In testing the traffic lights, the Commission used the 170E
controller which is in use in 80% of all signal intersections. They
noted four different types of effects, depending on the power level
of the electromagnetic pulse.
The following effects were observed:
Forced Cycle: At field levels of
1 to 5 kV/m, the light was forced to cycle from green to red
without going through yellow. This is a transient effect
that recovers automatically after one cycle.
Disrupted Cycle: At field levels
of 5 to 10 kV/m, the normally programmed cycle times became
corrupted and change to a cycle different from that
originally programmed. The controller had either been
damaged or needed to be manually reset.
No Cycle: At 10 to 15 kV/m, the
side street lights at an intersection never turned green.
The controller had been damaged.
Flash Mode: Also at 10 to 15
kV/m, the intersection went into a mode in which the lights
in all directions were flashing. This mode can cause large
traffic jams because traffic flow is severely reduced in
this situation. The controller has either been damaged or
needs to be manually reset.
Based on these results, it can be
anticipated that an EMP will trigger moderate to severe traffic
congestion in metropolitan areas.
The traffic congestion may be
exacerbated by the panic reactions possibly attendant to an EMP
attack. None of the data predict or suggest life threatening
conditions; conflicting green lights did not occur during the tests.
All the observed effects would cause
less traffic disruption than would a power outage, which results in
no working traffic lights.
The potential EMP vulnerability of automobiles derives from the use
of built-in electronics that support multiple functions within the
With more than 100 microprocessors in modern vehicles, one might
think that leaves newer cars more susceptible to being disrupted by
an EMP, but due to higher standards in electromagnetic
compatibility, this weakness has been mitigated.
The Commission tested a sample of 37 cars in an EMP simulation
laboratory, with vehicle years ranging from 1986 through 2002.
Automobiles of these vintages include extensive electronics and
represent a significant portion of the vehicles on the road today.
Automobiles were subjected to EMP environments under both engine
turned off and engine turned on conditions.
No effects were subsequently observed in
those automobiles that were not turned on during EMP exposure. The
most serious effect observed on running automobiles was that the
motors in three cars stopped at field strengths of approximately 30
kV/m or above. In an actual EMP exposure, these vehicles would glide
to a stop and require the driver to restart them.
Electronics in the dashboard of one
automobile were damaged and required repair. Other effects were
relatively minor. Twenty-five automobiles exhibited malfunctions
that could be considered only a nuisance (e.g., blinking dashboard
lights) and did not require driver intervention to correct. Eight of
the 37 cars tested did not exhibit any anomalous response.
Based on these test results, the Commission expects few automobile
effects at EMP field levels below 25 kV/m.
Approximately 10 percent or more of the
automobiles exposed to higher field levels may experience serious
EMP effects, including engine stall, that require driver
intervention to correct.
As is the case for automobiles, the potential EMP vulnerability of
trucks derives from the trend toward increasing use of electronics.
The Commission assessed the EMP
vulnerability of trucks using an approach identical to that used for
automobiles. Eighteen running and non-running trucks were exposed to
simulated EMP in a laboratory. The intensity of the EMP fields was
increased until either anomalous response was observed or simulator
limits were reached.
The trucks ranged from gasoline-powered
pickup trucks to large diesel- powered tractors. Truck vintages
ranged from 1991 to 2003.
Of the trucks that were not running during EMP exposure, none were
subsequently affected during the test. Thirteen of the 18 trucks
exhibited a response while running. Most seriously, three of the
truck motors stopped.
Two could be restarted immediately, but
one required towing to a garage for repair. The other 10 trucks that
responded exhibited relatively minor temporary responses that did
not require driver intervention to correct.
Five of the 18 trucks tested did not
exhibit any anomalous response up to field strengths of
approximately 50 kV/m.