The National Academy of Sciences has been consulting with experts on the likely damage to the world's internet infrastructure in 2012 when solar storms are expected to peak.
Solar storms pump vast amounts of electromagnetic radiation into the solar system. Storms in 1859 burnt out telegraph wires, while similar events in 1989 took down part of the Canadian energy grid. In 2005, US systems suffered severe damage.
The report warned of "disruption to transportation, communication, banking and finance systems, government services, the breakdown of the distribution of potable water owing to pump failure, and the loss of perishable foods and medications because of a lack of refrigeration".
Estimates of the potential financial implications run to "$1tn to $2tn [£686bn to £1.37tn] during the first year alone for the societal and economic costs of a 'severe geomagnetic storm scenario' with recovery times of four to 10 years".
A recent report by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich estimated that the loss of the country's internet infrastructure would cost the economy 1.2 per cent of GDP every week.
While much has been done to strengthen parts of the national IT backbone to shield it from the effects of solar storms, individual companies are vulnerable, particularly those with extended networking to datacentres.
GPS systems will also be vulnerable, according to the report. If signals are lost from the GPS satellites around the world, businesses which rely on them for tracking inventory and staff will face severe difficulties.
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