15 January 2012

Apocalypse the Easy Way: Low Yield Nukes in Orbit -- EMP

...what do you think would happen to society without power, water, food, and fuel? It’s not a pretty picture. People will begin dying off by the end of the first week, those without a minimal storage of water or those who live in regions where water is not immediately available to them. Desperation will result in a rampage of crime with hoards searching for food and water. Within several weeks, a complete civil breakdown will be underway as mass migration out of the major cities creates extremely dangerous conditions while people search for food, water, and supplies. _ModernSurvivalBlog
China Developing Electromagnetic Weapons_More Here

In addition to causing the immediate damage and failure of transformers, there is also evidence that GIC may be responsible for the onset of long-term damage to transformers and other key power grid assets. Damaged transformers require repair or replacement with new units. Currently most large transformers are manufactured in foreign countries and replacements would likely involve long production lead times in excess of a year. _EENews.net PDF
In excess of a year? After a year, it is estimated that as many of 90% of the residents of a high tech society would have lost their lives to the wide range of complications and repercussions of a long-term power outage.
EMP Commission Report 7MB PDF Download

An EMP attack is different since it only requires but one nuclear weapon, detonated 300 miles above the middle of the United States. One bomb. The launch could even be done from a container ship somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico and in that instant, the war is already over and won.

...The first few million deaths are tragically obvious. Those aboard commercial flights, and even most private flights, those in nursing homes, hospices, and hospitals. The next few million are obvious as well. Those with severe aliments requiring careful daily medication or treatment, such as those awaiting transplants, people undergoing dialysis, those with severe heart ailments both known and not yet realized.

...Our interstate highways will become nightmare paths of exile as our largely urban population tries to fan out to find food that once was shipped in. Millions could and will die on that road. Where do they get safe water? The nearby stream or river is now a dump for raw sewage since purification plants are off line.

...Within a month the next level of die off will be in full development. Those who survive the initial onset of illnesses from polluted water and food, and survive, will nevertheless be weakened, knock down a level...At what point do we begin to kill each other for food, water, shelter? At what point does a small town mobilize, barricade itself in and make clear that any who enter will be shot because there is not enough food to share

...By sixty days true starvation will be killing off millions and by 120 days mass starvation will be the norm. Those lucky enough to be in rich farm producing areas, with the knowledge of how to gather food by hand, and then preserve it, will have a temporary surplus, but even then, if they do not ration it out wisely, as did our colonial forefathers, they too will starve before the next crop is in the ground come spring... _Forstchen
Over 250 million North Americans are likely to die of various causes over the first 6 to 9 months, unless massive assistance arrives from the outside. But since the outside is likely to be at war with itself, how likely is North America to receive foreign aid? After all, it is usually North America that is the source of most foreign aid to the outside.
EENews.Net PDF
During an overnight power blackout one hot July night in 1977 in New York City, dozens of city blocks were destroyed by fire, almost 2,000 stores were looted and vandalised, and most of the tragedy that occurred that short summer night will never be known. That is from one night without power in a modern city. Imagine 6 months to a year without power over most of an entire continent.

The map above focuses upon the most vulnerable areas in the US grid. But if advocates of the highly vulnerable smart grid have their way, the entire map will be the vulnerable area.

One reason that Al Fin Energy blog often focuses on decentralised production of power and fuels, is because of the enormous vulnerability of a massively interconnected system which has inadequate backups and a rapidly depleting supply of human capital which would be capable of instituting needed immediate repairs and workarounds.

You might think that having a lot of big solar electric plants and wind farms hooked to the grid would be helpful at such times. But no, they would make the situation even worse. Think about it a bit, and if you have any knowledge of the systems involved, you will see what I mean.

Where would the fatal strike arise? Most EMP activists are concerned about an attack from rogue states such as Iran or North Korea -- perhaps via an intermediary such as Venezuela, Cuba, or a ship-launched missile offshore. Al Fin analysts suspect that a more likely scenario involves a dual function space launch by the space services of an established space power such as China or Russia. With the simultaneous orbital placement of multiple satellites, a small yield nuclear device or two might wander off into the night to await subsequent orders to detonate in a particular orbital location. Or such a device might exist in conjunction with a conventional satellite that "fails", and is accepted as "space junk" until needed to fulfill its primary mission.

There a number of possible scenarios which would leave the target of the attack defenseless to stop the initiating event, the high altitude orbital EMP.

As the US falls more deeply into entitlement debt, makes itself more vulnerable to uneducable and unassimilable illegal immigrants, makes war on its own private sector business and commerce, cuts its defenses against foreign threat, shuts down its energy infrastructure due to faux environmental concerns, and moves closer to a catastrophic energy infrastructure of vulnerable "smart" grids paired with unreliable big wind and solar -- you may begin to see a society rotting from within. Such a society is not resilient to the type of attack and damage which is described in the links above.

Make your plans accordingly.

First published at Al Fin Potpourri


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Blogger J said...

I dont know what are your precedents for predicting utter chaos and jungle-like conditions when a society is put under severe stress. I does not happen that way. Maybe you are haing in front of your eyes the situation of New Orleans after the flood, but that is highly untypical. You should take as model Germany after its utter defeat in WWII or Japan after the bomb. Public order is tightened to the extreme, looters and rapers are shot on sight, civil patrols form spontaneously, people help each other, strict order is enforced by the public itself. Voluntary organizations keep water and food reserves and ration it out. Like in an army disorganized after defeat or a ship lost in the ocean, the highest ranking (be he a captain or a sargeant in the army, a doctor or a teacher if civilians) is forced to take charge and give orders. European and Asian societies have a tremendous self-organizational capability, chaos will not reign for long.

Sunday, 15 January, 2012  
Blogger al fin said...

Interesting comment, thanks, J.

The US -- most US cities of the 21st century -- may be a bit different than traditional Europe, after WWII. More multicultural. Less cohesion. Less trust. More tribalism.

The cohesive self-organisation that you describe would likely apply to many rural and small town / small city dominated areas in North America. But not to the largely multicultural areas.

Dozens of US inner cities could be described as simmering riots just waiting for a good excuse to flare up.

Never underestimate the self-destructive inclinations of low IQ populations.

Sunday, 15 January, 2012  
Blogger Loren said...

I can't see 90%. There's evidence that FCC requirements and such have made a lot of consumer electronics much harder than people spouting doom think, and military equipment has always been hardened. Quite a few people will die, but we'll hardly be put back in the dark ages, let alone the 1800s.

Sunday, 15 January, 2012  
Blogger al fin said...

Thanks for your input, Loren.

We have to recognise that US populations are highly heterogeneous. The survival rates in a sustained, severe, widespread catastrophe are likely to vary from location to location.

Without electrical power over a long time period and across most of the country, most of the institutions that people rely upon for their sustenance and livelihood will break down.

When people are relatively incompetent to do for themselves, and when their sense of entitlement toward their institutions is in the stratosphere, it doesn't require a lot of hardship before wild rumours begin flying, and a powder keg of latent instability is ignited.

When such things let go, they tend to let go quickly. Most people have no benchmarks against which to measure the possibilities, when pampered and relatively low IQ societies full of entitlement suddenly come to believe that they are being hung out to dry.

Many areas of the countryside and small urban areas may fare relatively well. Large cities will be very difficult to organise.

In the isolated aftermath of a continental EMP attack, it will happen city by city. First the mobs will kill the only persons who might have saved them. Then they will begin killing anyone who they see as competitors for the dwindling supplies of food and safe fluids. Then they themselves will die for lack of the outside help that they never knew they had always depended on.

I am curious about the evidence that the FCC, or any US governmental agency, has done anything to improve the security of US citizens under such circumstances.

Sunday, 15 January, 2012  
Blogger Whirlwind22 said...

Is anything being done to protect from this threat?

Sunday, 15 January, 2012  
Blogger Loren said...

FCC demands a certain amount of tolerance for interference in electronics. It's far from perfect, being intended for protection against other radio systems mostly, but there are signs that it would help some with a HEMP. Best known and easiest to look up is the Top Gear test where they struck a car with lightning. The challenge of using an EMP is making sure your energy over area delivers enough power to fry things.

Things like data centers, professional grade equipment, etc. as well as much simpler stuff will probably do just fine. Military hardware has been hardened since the '60s when the HEMP effect was discovered. Systems designed to protect communications equipment against solar flares should work well against the effect too.

I've linked to a couple of things about it before, here's a good article: http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1549/1

This is more something China would do when it decides the US is worthless, versus someone like Iran, or terrorists. Terrorists go more for shock value, and blowing up a city would be worth more of that.

Sunday, 15 January, 2012  
Blogger al fin said...

Loren: I would not take much comfort from FCC demands. The FCC of today is more concerned with limiting politically incorrect speech than with hardening communications electronics.

The piece by Yousaf Butt is useful, with some interesting references. I would not take much comfort from it, however, given the many questionable assumptions that are made. But if the frighten China or Russia away from making such an attempt, such targeted pieces will have done their job.

Butt is talking about your grandma's EMP device of yesteryear. But that is not what will be used. Multiple, large yield devices will be used, which are customised for maximum effect.

Remember that Butt and his Union of Concerned Scientist colleagues have ideological reasons for minimising the idea of an EMP threat.

Monday, 16 January, 2012  
Blogger al fin said...

For those who are interested in looking at two sides to this debate, there is the "minimal threat" viewpoint: Yousaf Butt (h/t Loren)

And there is the rebuttal to Butt from the same publication: Radasky and Pry. Here is a short excerpt:

Dr. Butt’s chief argument against the EMP Commission is his unfounded assertion that EMP from a low-yield (1-kiloton) nuclear weapon—that he assumes would be the yield of a terrorist or rogue state nuclear weapon—is not sufficient to cause catastrophic consequences against US critical infrastructures. Dr. Butt hinges his argument on the well-known fact that, for nuclear weapons of conventional design, a weapon of high yield will produce stronger EMP fields than a weapon of low yield. But this does not prove—and nowhere does Dr. Butt prove or offer compelling evidence—that EMP from a low-yield nuclear weapon would be insufficient to cause a national catastrophe.

It must be noted that Dr. Butt’s assumption that a terrorist or rogue state nuclear weapon could not have a yield greater than 1-kiloton is a view unique to him, and constitutes an unrealistically benign assessment of the likely nuclear threat. Proliferation of a Russian tactical nuclear weapon—of which there are many thousands, being the most numerous nuclear weapons in the world—is still considered one of the most likely pathways by which terrorists or rogue states might acquire a nuclear weapon. Russian tactical nuclear weapons typically have yields of 10-100 kilotons, and can be up to a megaton.3

And so on. Each article is 2 pages long.

Monday, 16 January, 2012  
Blogger Tom Craver said...

EMP would certainly be disastrous.

But this scenario assumes that nobody does anything but sit around until they're desperately thirsty or hungry or scared. For the first few days, only a small minority would riot or head for the hills. Most would cooperate and work together trying to find solutions. (Look at NYC post 911 attack, or Japan post tsunami - no collapse, cooperation. New Orleans/Katrina isn't a good model, because the situation won't be nearly as immediately threatening, and populations won't have been evacuated.)

And it ignores that there'll still be some working electrical and electronic devices, that cities can salvage and dedicate to high priority problems like getting water pumped and sewage flowing and police patrolling.

And it ignores that the military is both more EMP resistant AND organized enough to quickly do repairs and get out to maintain order and provide emergency food transport.

And it ignores that competent companies and tradesmen will quickly go to work fixing what can be fixed, and building new transformers and generators and motors and so forth.

Presenting such a defeatist scenario tempts enemies to see it as worth attempting. In fact, the way they should see it is as dooming their own people: US public opinion would instantly turn from mostly anti-nuke to pro-atomizing whoever had attacked us.

Tuesday, 17 January, 2012  
Blogger al fin said...

A clever enemy would leave no fingerprints on his work. You could atomise anyone you like, but never be sure that you had destroyed the culpable party.

In the meantime, the point of presenting a defeatist scenario in a situation where the public is far more desperately unprepared than it is willing to admit, is to get at least a few people motivated to make themselves and their communities more resilient.

There really is no historical parallel to draw upon -- certainly not 9/11 or Japan post-tsunami. An entire continent without a power grid? There would be no easy fix on any significant scale, particularly if the North American and/or European EMP was the opening gambit of a larger geographical power play.

Tuesday, 17 January, 2012  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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