After hearing the December 27th, 2005 Coast to Coast AM radio talk show, a number of listeners had questions in regard to what they should do to prepare for the next superwave. Paul LaViolette (P L) attempts to address some of those questions below.
From an email he received 12/29/05:
P L: It is true that the Galactic center hangs low in the Northern sky. So, gamma rays from the Galactic center direction reaching northern hemisphere locations would be more attenuated since they would have a greater thickness of atmosphere to penetrate. Following the initial burst, the lower velocity cosmic ray electrons would arrive from all directions. So, which hemisphere one lived in would not matter except that regions closer to the poles where geomagnetic field screening of cosmic rays is normally lower would have less protection. If you have plans to move to Brazil, this would probably not be a reason to change your plans.
If the superwave were to arrive without warning, the first effect would be seismic and then this would be followed by the gamma ray burst and EMP effects. We may use the 2004 tsunami as an indicator in this respect, although a core explosion of the sort we are talking about would be on a much bigger scale. If a similar sequence were to occur, then the occurrence of worldwide seismic events would give us probably a day or two warning that a gamma ray burst was imminent. Unfortunately, many would have already perished if a gravity wave pulse were to trigger widespread seismic disturbances without any warning.
Unfortunately we have little data on
what a superwave would be like since we have not experienced
any in modern times. To infer for the future we must study
ice core records telling us what happened in the past. At
present, and throughout most of the interglacial period superwave
cosmic ray bombardment has been absent,and during this period
the beryllium-10 is produced in the Earth's atmosphere mainly
by cosmic ray protons of intergalactic origin which make up 99%
of the cosmic ray background striking the Earth. During
the time when a superwave is passing our solar system, this baseline beryllium-10
production rate is boosted by the additional intense flux of
Galactic cosmic ray electrons coming from the Galactic center
that compose the incoming superwave. Although the superwave
initially consists of both cosmic ray protons and electrons when
it departs from the Galactic center, on its journey through the
galaxy the slower moving (low Lorentz
factor) proton component lags behind, disperses and gets
captured by the Galaxy's interstellar magnetic field leaving
only the higher speed (high Lorentz factor) cosmic ray electron
component to arrive as a coherent superwave volley. However,
compared to cosmic ray protons, cosmic ray electrons are less
efficient at producing beryllium-10. But if the superwave
is sufficiently intense (contains sufficient intensities of incoming
cosmic ray electrons), it will be able to raise atmospheric beryllium-10
production rate above the interglacial baseline rate. Assuming
that the beryllium-10 concentration spikes found in the
ice age portion of the ice record indicate Earth's past exposure
to superwave electrons, we may gauge the intensity of the superwave
by the height of these peaks. We then conclude that the
superwave cosmic rays had an effect similar to that produced
by a 2 to 4 fold increase in the cosmic ray proton background
component. The lower figure of this range is based on Be-10
measurements made on the Vostok, Antarctica ice core and the
higher end of the range is based on Be-10 measurements made on
the Camp Century, Greenland ice core. There have not been
that many Be-10 measurements made of the ice age portion of the
Be-10 record so these data points are relatively spaced out in
time with the order of centuries, or in some cases millennia
between successive points. So it is possible that researchers
may have missed some events that produce Be-10 concentration
spikes higher than this which are present in the ice record.
P L: Taking the December 2004 gamma ray burst as an example, the brightest one to occur in the past several decades, this one declined from its maximum intensity over a five minute period. This did not originate from a Galactic core. So it is difficult to extrapolate to a Galactic center outburst. However, I am guessing that a core gamma ray outburst would not persist for more than 10 minutes before fading out. The entire superwave cosmic ray event, however, would persist for anywhere from a hundred to several thousand years.
P L: The black horizon I spoke about on the Coast to Coast show (the Usselo Horizon) is described in the 2005 edition of Earth Under Fire. The conflagration that produced this horizon (~12,900 years ago) was not produced by a Galactic core gamma ray burst, but rather most likely was due to a giant coronal mass ejection from the Sun, one so powerful that it overpowered the Earth's magnetic field and contacted the Earth's surface. It is this solar event that I have suggested was responsible for the extinction of the Pleistocene megafauna and for the conflagration/flood stories found in ancient myth. More information may be found in the paper: "Evidence for a Solar Cause of the Pleistocene Mass Extinction." Legends of our ancestors having taken refuge in caves I believe were referring to this coronal mass ejection event, and not to a surprise gamma ray burst. There were other solar-- global warming/glacial flooding events before and after the 12,887 years b2k (before 2000) solar proton event (SPE) which may also have inspired catastrophe legends, but they were not as major as this one. This terminal extinction event occurred several thousand years after the superwave had already been in progress. Since the Sun currently is no where near the level of aggravation that preceded this mass extinction event, we would not presently be threatened by any similar situation. Such super SPE's become a concern only after the superwave has pushed cosmic dust into the solar system and caused the Sun's surface to become progressively more and more active, perhaps over a time scale of centuries to millennia.
P L: Judging from the Earth's past, I very much doubt that the next Galactic core gamma ray burst will produce a radiation hazard approaching that of the 12,887 years b2k solar proton event. I am guessing that ice age people would have had ample warning of that super SPE since solar activity would have been progressively building up.
The solar hazard that would be more of a threat during the initial stage of the superwave's arrival would be the gradual destruction of the Earth's ozone layer and the consequent high levels of UV radiation that would penetrate. As you know this is already a problem in some southern parts of Australia and Chile. Indeed, staying out of the Sun during such a phase would be advisable.
From an email he received 12/28/05:
In regard to building a new bomb shelter, I
would say there is no need to at present. In terms of needing
shelter from intense nuclear radiation, a terrorist attack might
currently pose more of a threat. On the Coast to Coast
show when I said that the superwave would carry an electromagnetic
pulse (EMP) similar to a high-altitude nuclear explosion, I did
not mean to imply that the superwave would deliver ionizing radiation
effects similar to a nearby nuclear explosion, e.g., such as
one capable of delivering a lethal dose of radiation. A
high-altitude nuclear explosion such as the Starfish explosion,
which was conducted over the Pacific Ocean at an altitude of
about 450 kilometers would not have produced much ground radiation
since its high-energy particles became trapped in the Earth's
magnetic field. But its EMP was able to black out the Hawaiian
Islands 1500 kilometers away. I discuss this in my dissertation
CD ROM. My reference
to the high-altitude nuclear explosion was in regard to the EMP
effects which might be associated with the prompt arrival of
a superwave and which could knock out satellites, overload the
power distribution network, and zap semiconductor electronic
However, some must indeed find it unsettling to hear rumors of secret projects being conducted by the "shadow government" to dig underground tunnels and dwellings presumably to house some fraction of the population in the event of a future disaster. Most of these are stories that circulate on the internet and are difficult to corroborate without more background information. But, let us suppose for the moment that these stories are true. Have these underground bunkers been constructed for a possible nuclear attack, or for some natural disaster arriving from space? If the latter is the case, does this shadow government know something that we don't know. Do they have some inside information obtained through possible contact with ET's that some catastrophic event is imminent and that such underground dwellings will be necessary for future survival? Relative to the present discussion about superwaves, the question arises is a superwave about to arrive and will it be of such high initial intensity that people should protect themselves in underground shelters. My answer as a scientist would be to look at what we do know, which is to look at the past record and judging on that basis I would say that the chance of life threatening superwave radiation hazard arriving unexpectedly is rather remote. But, I could be wrong. Unfortunately, I don't see many of my scientist colleagues looking into this matter.
P L: A conservative guess would be that there is a 90% chance that a superwave will arrive in the next four centuries. I cannot rule out the possibility that one might arrive around the time of the Mayan calendar end date of 2012, as some proclaim. And others have felt that a catastrophic event might occur even sooner. It is just that investigations of the Galactic center mass (Sagittarius A*) show that the core continues in its present quiescent state. Whether this present tranquil state will without warning come to a sudden end, I cannot say. All we can do at present is talk of future probabilities by looking at what has happened in the past. A study of the past shows that we are overdue for a small event, one similar to the bursts that resulted in the 14 gas expulsions which issued from the Galactic center over the past 5300 years. It has been 700 years since the last event and on only two occasions was there a time lapse between events longer than this. Whether the next event will be a small superwave event (Magnitude 1 event) or a much larger climatically significant event (Magnitude 3 or 4 event) is difficult to say.
In referring to past events, it helps to use a magnitude scale as is used in describing the strengths of earthquakes and tornadoes. However, since we do not have real time data, such a scale is understandably very qualitative. We might rank the severity of Galactic superwaves as given below.