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Could an Electromagnetic Pulse Wipe Out Civilization? New ‘End of the World’ Scenario Gets Serious Attention

Black Mountain, NC, September 30, 2009 – Dire predictions of a coming apocalypse are popular again, but never before have they been accompanied by such chilling scientific gravitas.

Dr. William Forstchen’s best-selling novel One Second After – which details the horrific aftermath of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the United States – although a novel, his education on the subject has now caught some serious attention of military commanders and lawmakers in Washington. The book’s scenarios also align with frightening new predictions from an international panel of experts led by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Even if high-atmosphere nuclear blasts don’t cause an EMP effect that wipes out civilization as we know it (as happens in Dr. Forstchen’s One Second After), the same result could conceivably come from solar flare and geomagnetic activity.

NOAA experts now predict a potentially catastrophic peak of solar geomagnetic activity in May of 2013.

Doomsday theorists have been trumpeting an earlier date: Dec. 21, 2012, which is when the ancient Mayan cyclical calendar is set to end, supposedly with catastrophic consequences. Nostradamus and the ancient Egyptians also are said to have predicted world cataclysm in the year 2012.

Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, sides with Forstchen and the NASA/NOASS report, urging that we takes this cautionary tale very seriously. Gingrich presented facts outlined in One Second After to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee at its annual policy conference. Gingrich stressed that while the book is fiction, it’s based on accurate facts, and the U.S. has no national strategy in place to respond to such a threat.

Forstchen says an EMP blast, whether from nuclear bombs or solar activity, could destroy our entire electronic, transportation and communications infrastructure in less than one second. The frightening result? Within a year, 90 percent of all Americans could be dead, according to reports by the Congressional EMP Commission.

NASA & NOAA don’t necessarily expect Doomsday from the 2013 solar peak, but its experts are very concerned.

“Even a below-average cycle is capable of producing severe space weather,” said Doug Biesecker of the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center. “The great geomagnetic storm of 1859, for instance, occurred during a solar cycle of about the same size we’re predicting for 2013.”

The 1859 storm electrified transmission cables, set fires in telegraph offices, and produced Northern Lights so bright that people could read newspapers by their glow. A recent report by the National Academy of Sciences found that if a similar storm occurred today, it could cause up to $2 trillion in damages to the world’s high-tech infrastructure and require up to 10 years to repair.

Among those in Washington who read One Second After and now advocate preventative action are Lt. General Henry Obering, head of the Missile Defense Agency, and Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), head of the Congressional Investigative Committee on EMP.

William Forstchen is a faculty fellow and professor of history at Montreat College in North Carolina. His many books include Gettysburg and Pearl Harbor, both co-authored with Gingrich. For more information, visit:

The moral of the story? If you want to make money, get into the “doomsday” business.

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  1. David Brodbeck N8SRE says:

    This is a big issue for power companies, especially ones with grid configurations that can effectively form very large loop antennas. There are countermeasures they can take in advance, but they cost money and haven’t always been implemented. The danger is that this can burn out large transformers that have very long (months to years) construction lead times, potentially blacking out large areas for a long period of time.

    Also one of many good reasons to disconnect and ground your antennas when they’re not in use.

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