Back in 1859 this happens:
Ships at sea are reporting tremendous blood red ‘auroras,’ shifting curtains of light in the night sky. Compasses are going wild. Telegraph operators are being electrocuted at their own equipment. …
On September 1st, Richard Carrington is observing the Sun from his observatory in Redhill, south of London, when he sees a bright explosion above a group of sunspots at the center of the Sun. Simultaneously, at Kew in London, the needle of a magnetometer goes off the scale. Learning of the coincidence, Carrington concludes a storm has erupted on the Sun …
The solar ‘flare’ of 1859 was the biggest ever recorded. If it occurred today, says Stuart Clark in The Sun Kings, electrical currents would be induced in power lines and electricity generating stations sufficient to melt them. Satellites, computers, and communications networks would be destroyed. We would be returned to the steam age.
Huh. Has anybody used this sort of flare as a nightmare movie scenario? And what are we doing to protect ourselves?
NASA sounds pretty sanguine:
[S]cientists at NASA and NOAA give warnings to electric companies, spacecraft operators and airline pilots before a CME [coronal mass ejection] comes to Earth so that these groups can take proper precautions.
source: Solar System: a visual exploration of the planets, moons, and other heavenly bodies that orbit our sun by Marcus Chown