In the century and a half, since Richard Carrington made his observation, solar scientists have studied the Carrington Event and searched ice-core and other records for evidence of similar storms hitting Earth. Everything found thus far pales in comparison to the fury of the 1859 storm. There have been far more near misses, of course. One, a “Carrington class” CME launched by a 2012 solar flare, missed intersecting with Earth in its orbit by a mere nine days.
Famed insurer Lloyd’s of London, a firm with much to lose in such an event, commissioned a study to estimate the impact of a Carrington-level event striking the Earth today. They knew the stakes were much higher, what with 160 years of wires, switches, repeaters, satellites, and radios added to our grid, not to mention our complete dependence on the services built upon that infrastructure. They concluded that we might possibly see up to $2.6 trillion in grid damage in the United States alone, with power outages lasting up to two years.