Disaster Fact Checks

FACT CHECK: No basis for claim that solar superstorm will wipe out internet in 2024


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FACT CHECK: No basis for claim that solar superstorm will wipe out internet in 2024
Although scientists say a strong solar storm could impact the Earth’s communication systems, there is yet no conclusive evidence that it could cause an ‘internet apocalypse’

Claim: A looming solar superstorm in 2024 will wipe out internet connections, cellphone and broadcasting signals, and electricity worldwide, with its effects lasting a whole year.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The YouTube video containing the claim has garnered 9,848 views, 361 likes, and 28 comments as of writing.

The bottom line: While scientists say solar activity is expected to peak in 2024, there is yet no conclusive evidence that a major solar storm will cause a global internet blackout. Nor are there estimates of the damage that it may cause.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has not released any official announcement or warning against any looming “internet apocalypse” that will occur due to a solar superstorm.

News outlets such as The Washington Post and Hindustan Times have also debunked such claims as early as June 2023. VERA Files also debunked a similar claim in December 2023.

Solar storms explained: Solar magnetic storms, also known as coronal mass ejections, refer to the explosive ejection of plasma from the sun. Solar flares are classified according to their strength, starting from A-class as the smallest followed by B, C, M, and X. According to NASA, M-class flares can cause brief radio blackouts and minor radiation storms. Meanwhile, X-class flares, when directed at the Earth, can create “long lasting radiation storms that can harm satellites, communications systems, and even ground-based technologies and power grids.” 

During a solar cycle, the sun’s magnetic north and south poles reverse approximately every 11 years. Solar activity will be most active during a period known as the solar maximum. According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Space Weather Prediction Center, the sun will reach its peak activity between January and October 2024, in the 25th solar cycle. 

No ‘internet apocalypse’: According to research from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata, the most intense solar storms could seriously impact Earth’s satellites, electric power grids, and telecommunications. 

However, The Washington Post reported that predicting when solar storms will occur is still a challenge for scientists. While scientists expect solar storms to occur during the peak of solar activity, there are no estimates of the severity of the potential damage these storms could cause nor evidence that these would cause the internet to go offline. Vishal Upendran, a research associate at the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory in California, told Space.com that “more studies are needed to make any strong statements regarding the strength of solar storms.”

Rappler has debunked claims in the past about the prediction of solar superstorms. Katarina Ruflo/Rappler.com

Katarina Ruflo is a graduate of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.

Keep us aware of suspicious Facebook pages, groups, accounts, websites, articles, or photos in your network by contacting us at factcheck@rappler.com. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time.

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