What Does EMP Stand for and How Does It Work?


Friday, February 7th 2020, 11:47 am
By: News On 6


About EMP

According to an article by Business Insider, “Experts recently told Congress that a North Korean electromagnetic pulse attack on the US could wipe out 90% of the population.”

There are different kinds of EMPs with different levels of danger. But one thing is for sure: experts around the world have called our attention to the risks of EMPs.

So what does EMP stand for, and what do you need to do about it? Read on to learn everything you need to know about EMPs.

What Does EMP Stand For?

EMP’s meaning is “electromagnetic pulse.” They are a dangerous phenomenon that could potentially lead to the deaths of hundreds of millions of people.

That opening figure about wiping out 90% of the population with a single weapon might seem impossible. The strongest weapons we have are nuclear arms, and fearsome as those may be, a single one isn’t nearly strong enough to destroy most of an entire country.

But it’s true; EMPs really could be that dangerous. The key thing to understand is that EMPs are harmless to a society without electrical technology, and potentially devastating to one that does.

You see, EMPs don’t directly kill or harm anyone. In fact, even very powerful EMPs can pass right through you without causing any visible damage. So how are they so dangerous?

EMPs affect electrical wiring of all kinds. In 1859, the Carrington EMP knocked out telegraph machines around the world.

But aside from damaging the telegraphs and causing a few fires, nothing much happened. Why?

It’s not that the EMP wasn’t strong enough; it’s that it had very few targets it could destroy. With no electrical technology except for a few telegraph machines, an EMP couldn’t do much of anything.

But imagine an EMP striking today’s society. Our modern system is utterly dependent on electrical technology in every way and at every level. Everything from the water we drink to the way we get around requires functioning electrical systems to work.

An EMP just like the 1859 Carrington EMP could strike again, but this time, the effects could be unimaginable.

What Is an Electromagnetic Pulse?

An electromagnetic pulse is a strong burst of energy that interacts with the earth’s magnetic field.

There are two kinds of EMP: natural and manmade. The Carrington EMP was natural; it came from the sun.

Natural EMPs

Every so often, the sun experiences a solar flare. It flings charged particles in a great, violent mass into space. The vast majority of the time, this is harmless.

One reason why it’s harmless is because the Earth is so far away from the sun. With such a vast distance to cross, the Earth is a very difficult target to hit. Most solar flares send particles in directions that never touch this planet.

On top of that, most solar flares are weak enough that the Earth’s magnetic field can divert the energized particles they shoot out. In most cases, the only sign we have of solar flares is the beautiful aurora near the north and south pole, painting the sky in green and other colors.

However, every 100 or 200 years, you get a Carrington-level solar flare that hits the earth. For the first time in the history of the planet, there’s so much electrical technology scattered across the earth’s surface that a solar flare could cause serious trouble.

Manmade EMPs

Nuclear weapons are the most powerful weapon ever created, but just blowing them up on the surface is not even remotely the most dangerous way to use them.

A bad actor with a nuclear bomb can cause incredible damage and loss of life, but ultimately, the vast majority of people would be unaffected by any single explosion.

However, a well-placed nuclear bomb 25 to 200 miles above the earth’s surface can interact with the magnetic field and create an unnaturally powerful EMP.

The blast radius for such an EMP is not just a few miles like it is for a nuclear explosion. Instead, a nuclear bomb detonated in the atmosphere can cause an EMP that covers thousands of square miles of territory.

And the strength of such a manmade EMP would be far above the usual EMPs created by the sun. A manmade nuclear EMP could utterly destroy electrical systems across a whole country, or across several.

Whether natural or manmade, a strong enough EMP could take society back to the 1800s in terms of technology.

How Does an EMP Work?

So how do EMPs work? The massive energy from an EMP forces itself into electrical wiring. Suddenly, our wires are transferring extreme amounts of energy.

When that powerful energy reaches a transformer, it can overload it and destroy it. While the wires are intact, the system cannot function without the transformer, so the device shuts down.

An EMP can cause temporary or permanent loss of power, depending on how strong it is.

The thing about how an EMP works is, you might suppose that such a strong phenomenon would be almost impossible to stop. Considering how damaging an EMP can be, you may be reassured to know that making an EMP shield is actually very easy.

Even just wrapping an electrical system in 5 layers of heavy-duty tin foil is enough to foil a powerful EMP strike! Some government and military technology are protected with this kind of shielding, but most of the electrical grid is not.

You can protect your own devices with foil, but if there’s no power coming in, that’s of limited help. Surviving a power outage of a few weeks is a matter of having some extra food and water in the home.

Surviving a never-ending power outage is a matter of learning to farm, live off the land, or travel to an unaffected area.

Staying Aware

If you’ve ever wondered, “What does EMP stand for,” we hope you’ve found your answer here.

For more about technology, entertainment, and more, check out our other articles!

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