A solar storm is expected to disrupt power grids and satellite operations on Friday due to a “quick hit” of charged particles streaming out from the sun.
The solar flare detected on Tuesday, July 20, threw a cloud of charged particles toward our planet. Although the “explosion debris” does not target Earth directly, it is expected to cause a small solar storm in the Earth’s surrounding magnetosphere on Friday, July 23.
Experts at the US Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) warned that the storm could lead to weak power grid disruptions.
“G1 (minor) geomagnetic storm conditions are likely to be delayed on July 23 due to CME effects,” the experts wrote in their updated three-day forecast.
Earlier this week, the center warned in its forecast of a “CME lightning strike” that would have an impact on space weather.
Coronal mass ejections or coronal mass ejections are large ejections of plasma and magnetic fields from the Sun, sometimes associated with solar flares.
Coronal mass ejections and flares, in turn, can trigger solar storms by throwing high-speed streams of charged material into the magnetosphere – the region of space around Earth dominated by the planet’s magnetic field.
According to NASA, this can penetrate the magnetic field, allowing charged particles to hit the poles and the atmosphere.
When this happens, the Earth’s magnetic field will weaken for six to 12 hours, and it will take a few days to fully recover.
Solar storms can cause a wide range of effects, from minor disturbances to satellite operations, to complete power outages.
According to astronomy website SpaceWeather.com: “The solar wind streamed in, resulting in a period of geomagnetic disturbances. So far there have been no reports of auroras, possibly due to the glare of the northern summer sun. Calm conditions have since resumed.”
The site also reported a sunspot explosion, AR2846, that was discovered on July 20.
Modeling by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and SWPC indicates that the CME’s edge will hit Earth’s magnetic field late Friday.
Fortunately for us, forecasters are only expecting a minor G1 storm – if it does at all.
A G1 storm can cause “weak power grid fluctuations” and have a “minor impact on satellite operations”.
Weak solar storms are also known to have an effect on migratory animals, and can give rise to beautiful aurora borealis.
“During some space weather events, solar energy particles spiral down the geomagnetic field lines in the polar regions, where they increase the density of ionized gas, which in turn affects the propagation of radio waves and can lead to radio interruptions,” NASA said. Events are for several days, during which time aircraft must be diverted to latitudes where satellite communications can be used.”
A 2013 report found that the economic cost of a major solar storm hitting Earth would cause damage ranging from $0.6 trillion to $2.6 trillion in the United States alone.
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