Can Climate Change Kill the Internet?
We live in a connected world. At any point in time, each of us likely has access to multiple screens — and that means multiple connections to the internet. In an instant, however, Mother Nature could disrupt those connections.
The recent California wildfires, for example, wiped out all utility infrastructure, including electrical and internet, in parts of the state. In 2018, Hurricane Michael caused similar outages on the Florida Panhandle, and Hurricane Maria caused the world’s second-largest blackout in Puerto Rico. And in countless parts of the U.S., every time tornadoes, high winds, heavy snowfall, ice storms, and even dust storms occur, the utility infrastructure that modern life depends on has the potential of being taken down — not just for hours, but for days and weeks at a time.
In fact, researchers mapped out the existing internet infrastructure in the U.S. and anticipate the rising sea levels from global warming to become a significant threat, eventually impacting internet connectivity across the entire U.S.
Since we see the internet as a personal lifeline, it’s essential to understand the outage threats near you. This way, you can make sure you’re using the best (and most reliable) internet service provider in your area and can be prepared if you lose connection during or after a severe weather event.
How to know what types of weather events can impact your area
One of the hallmarks of emergency preparedness is to be aware of the type of disasters you should anticipate when it comes to protecting your home, your family, and your business. First, determine what types of extreme weather are most common in your area:
- Severe storms (lightning, tornadoes, snow, ice, dust)
- Extreme temperatures (cold and hot)
Then, use the resources available on Ready.gov to familiarize yourself with what to do if a particular extreme weather emergency hits. Think ahead of time about the disruptive things that could happen and how your internet connection may be vulnerable.
How is telecommunications/internet impacted by weather events?
When damage to the power and telecommunications infrastructure affects a small area and is not devastating, services usually return quickly. But if you have small children, are a caregiver for the elderly, or if you have a medical condition that necessitates continuous power and/or internet connectivity, even minor outages are significant. As you plan your personal emergency response, try to find a shelter with power, water, and internet resources that you could use to wait out the storm.
Once the weather event has passed, service restoration can begin. In the meantime, if you do venture out of your home, be on the lookout for downed lines. In areas with above-ground electrical and internet lines, be aware that electrical and cable/phone/internet lines can be indistinguishable to the untrained eye. Contact the electric company immediately if you spot downed lines anywhere, and stay away.