The Sun Flares, officially the 2136 Solar Flares, also simply known as the Solar Flares and the Solar Storms, were an abnormal, apocalyptic event that occurred about 15 years before the events of The Maze Runner. Massive solar flares ravaged the planet and turned the area between the two Tropics, Cancer and Capricorn, into the wastelands known as the Scorch. The cataclysmic event devastated Human civilization and brought irrevocable changes to both Earth's climate and environment for centuries to come.
Prelude to the Apocalypse
Little information is known about the event that would come to be known as the Sun Flares. It can be assumed that the Sun Flares was an extremely powerful coronal mass ejection released from the Sun. No information is given on whether or not humanity was aware of the impending disaster and if so, made preparations to safeguard people in the lead up to it. From what is revealed about the event in The Maze Runner series, it seems that no major action was taken to prepare for the disaster. Thus, it is likely humanity was completely caught off guard when the Sun Flares impacted the Earth in October 2136. The population was greatly diminished due to this natural disaster.
Worlds End – The Solar Storm
When the solar flares impacted the Earth, the areas between the Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn, a region located both north and south of the equator, was directly impacted and thus the hardest-hit area. Approximately 4.5 billion people died within the first 15 minutes of the catastrophic event. Whole cities at or near the equator were all destroyed. Billions more would die in the subsequent firestorms, extreme heat, and tsunamis that ravaged the planet in the weeks to come. The Earth's magnetic field was greatly disrupted by the event, allowing for increased radiation to reach the surface.
The event brought about severely drastic changes in the Earth's climate and in turn its biosphere. The increase in radiation levels coupled with climate change leads to the extinction of most agricultural crops as well as countless other species of animals and plant life.
The region directly impacted by the Sun Flares became known as the Scorch, a barren, desert-like wasteland filled with the burnt-out remains of countless cities. Meanwhile, violent weather phenomena such as extreme lightning storms became common. The event caused rapid melting of the polar ice caps, leading to a rise in sea level. As a result, many parts of the world, including most of Europe, were inundated.
Human civilization was brought to the brink of collapse following the Sun Flares. A multitude of countries within the area directly affected by the solar storms, such as Mexico and India, were completely decimated. The many more countries that were not directly impacted suffered immense strain, if not outright collapsing, due to the subsequent natural and environmental disasters wrought by the solar storms. In addition, most forms of communication were disabled by the disaster.
Despite the cataclysmic event, humanity nonetheless persevered. There were a number of survivors in the Scorch, eking out an a meager existence in its barren waste. Meanwhile, the remnants of many former governments joined to form the Post-Flares Coalition (PFC), a supranational organization whose goal was to find solutions to the various problems in the world caused by the Sun Flares. Shortly after its formation, the PFC launched a survey to determine the state of the world following the Sun Flares.
Six months after the Sun Flares, the survey conducted by the PFC was completed. During a special resource conference, it was grimly revealed that there was insufficient amounts of food, drinkable water, and living space to effectively serve the remaining ~1.4 billion surviving people, with there being only enough sustainable resources left for about 70% of the remaining population (~980 million).
In the movie tie-in book The Scorch Trials Official Graphic Novel Prelude (which is canon with the movies but contradicts the original book series in many respects), Dr. Mary Cooper of the PFC Scientific Initiative proposed the institution of a rationing program of resources at the conference to be able to feed everyone. Ava Paige, a former city council member of Blackfoot, Idaho, however, disagreed. She believed this would only lead to civil unrest and ultimately war that would threatened to fracture the PFC. She instead proposed that the remaining 30% (~420 million) had to be eliminated in some manner. She made note that Dr. Cooper, prior to the Sun Flares, was studying a gene that randomly occurs in about 30% of the population, and she believed that she was necessary to finding a way to target this gene. While initially wanting no part in the effective genocide of a third of the remaining human population, Dr. Cooper was informed that the PFC will move forward with the plan without her. Ava Paige, however, convinced her that if she stayed, the PFC would do the population reduction right so that innocent lives were not needlessly killed. Dr. Cooper ultimately relented, revealing a virus would be needed.
Approximately two years later, as detailed in the book The Kill Order, the PFC released a deadly virus via airborne deployment into South Carolina for the purpose of population control. Because the virus was released shortly following the Sun Flares, people began to call it the Flare. Within months the Flare, being airborne, quickly spread and became a global pandemic, with occurrences in most major population centers within a year. The virus was originally thought to painlessly kill the victim in the brain, but it instead changed the way that the individual thought and reacted for the worse, gradually turning people into Cranks. Once turned into a Crank, infected individuals were extremely violent and had a murderous rage to kill others, sometimes even clawing themselves when in isolation. WICKED was founded in the hope that a cure could be created, as mentioned in The Maze Runner Files.
- In the movies, the Sun Flares happened in the year 2136, however in the book they likely happened in 2017. This places the movie world in a different timeline than the books.
- Also in the movies, it is confirmed that they happened in October.