Space weather experts have predicted a solar storm after a stream of charged particles from the Sun got to Earth. Solar winds reaching our planet over the weekend have produced a weak geomagnetic storm in Earth’s magnetosphere, and the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) says the storm could last until Wednesday, September 30th.
The storm could also affect satellite systems.
Solar Storm Alert
On Monday, the SWPC alert bulletin said that weak power grid fluctuations could take place, along with ‘minor impacts on satellite operations.’ Geomagnetic or solar storms are disruptions in the planet’s magnetosphere, produced by energy from the Sun reaching over to our planet.
The storms can be created by an enhance in solar winds pummeling Earth, and the largest ones are linked to coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, which are billions of tons of plasma discharged by the Sun that get to our planet.
The SWPC said: “Another solar wind disturbance that creates conditions favorable to geomagnetic storms is a high-speed solar wind stream (HSS).”
Depending on the intensity of the storm, a few disruptive events can take place on Earth. CMEs, for instance, are able to mess with power grid operations by generating more currents in the ground.
Technology and Navigation are Affected
Solar storms can also impact or degrade radio navigation systems like GPS and the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS). These types of storms have also been observed to confuse migratory animals that depend on Earth’s natural magnetic fields for navigation. The beautiful auroras such as the Northern and Southern Lights in the polar regions are also generated by solar activity.
A solar storm watch was reported for September 28th to September 29th and later restricted to just Monday. But on Tuesday morning, the SWPC announced there’s still a small chance of G2 Moderate storm conditions, followed by a G1 Minor storm tomorrow, on Wednesday.
Therefore, some high-latitude power systems might face ‘voltage alarms, long-duration storms may cause transformer damage.’ Satellite managers might also have to announce ‘corrective actions to orientation,’ the SWPC said.
The solar storms that are ranked as strong, such as G5 Extreme, can trigger full-on blackouts and power grid damage. Satellite navigation may also be impacted and damaged for days, and low-frequency radio navigation may disappear for hours.
Auroras Appear During Solar Storms
Auroras have also been noticed during such storms, even in Florida and southern Texas. One such event was the famed Carrington Event of 1859, which took place between August 28th and September 2nd: a CME collapsed onto Earth and created the biggest solar storm in history.
The storm severely damaged the telegraph systems across Europe and North America, with registered reports of telegraph operators being shocked. Auroras showed up that night in the Caribbean and were so luminous in some parts of the world that it appeared like it was daytime.
A Carrington-scale CME almost missed Earth back in 2012, and it probably would have created even more destruction to our technology-reliant world.
Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado said back in 2014: “If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces.”