Power outages as prelude to return of pre-history

I know there are a number of companies that try to trawl the web and search for patterns. There are also companies and organizations that track and compile all sorts of statistics for researchers to pore over at a later date, and at a price. Even I have been tempted to write about leading indicators of different kinds and what they could mean. Mostly, that desire is driven by my aging white male’s fear of things changing. Changing, naturally, for the worst.

And so I get worried about torrential rains with lightening that actually hits people, and heatwaves, but mostly I worry about power outages. I am sure there is a strong correlation between bad weather and power outages. As of this writing, the power is still out in parts of Queens, NY, St. Louis, Missouri. It was recently out in portions of California and UK. Most of the outages are due to inclement weather, so one would hope that as soon as a particular heat wave or storm subsides, the service goes back to normal.

Still, would not it just make a great beginning to a sci-fi story of how people came to think of power – to move things, to move themselves, to provide light and heat as a given, and the historical events in this post were some of the first signs (since august 2003 at least) of the inevitable collapse of the non-animal powered civilization? I am curious whether anyone tracks MTF (mean time between failures) for US electrical grid and distribution systems and makes the data public…

ps. and of course, there is someone with a fine paper on the topic titled “Complex dynamics of blackouts in power transmission systems” with the following statistics,

“…The average frequency of
blackouts in the United States is about one every 13 days. This frequency has not changed over the last 30 years. Also the probability distribution of blackout sizes has a power tail; this dependence indicates that the probability of large blackouts is relatively high. Indeed, although large blackouts are rarer than small blackouts, it can be argued that their higher societal cost makes the risk of large blackouts comparable to or exceed the risk of small blackouts…”

and the following chart showing the distribution of blackouts:

Time evolution of the power served and number of blackouts per year from the model

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