Entries in Geomagnetic Storm (2)


Solar Flare Heading For Earth Not Likely to Disrupt Communications

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A geomagnetic storm from a solar flare that erupted on the sun's surface earlier this week will likely collide with Earth this weekend, scientists say.

The coronal mass ejection on Thursday, caused by the release of excess solar energy, is classified as an X1.4 event. That means the storm is probably too weak to affect satellites used for cell phone communication, but communication using shorter wavelengths, such as radio, may be affected, said John Raymond, a physicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

"Imagine something with the mass of a mountain being ejected at a speed of a million miles an hour," Raymond said, adding that by the time the storm reaches Earth, its energy will have been spread out over an enormous area. Scientists expect the storm to arrive Saturday morning, and it is still possible that it will miss Earth.

The effects on communications may not be disruptive, Raymond said. During a recent coronal mass ejection, radio operators suddenly found their reach had extended to new continents. Such storms were first noticed in the 1800s, he said, when telegraph operators found they could send telegraphs without batteries.

On rare occasions, storms 20 times more powerful than the one currently approaching have been known to cause electric surges that shut down entire power grids, Raymond said. The surges are the result of movement in the lines of Earth's magnetic field.

The most notable effect of the coming storm is likely to be the spectacular auroras it produces in the night sky, Raymond said.

In March, the largest solar flare in five years hit Earth, prompting fears of disruptions to flights, GPS systems and power grids, but those problems never materialized.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Strongest Geomagnetic Storm in Six Years to Hit Earth

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Earth will experience its strongest geomagnetic storm in six years on Tuesday, but the radiation is expected to cause only minor problems with satellites, the power grid and navigation devices.

“Operators are surely seeing a greater number of errors on their system that are causing them to work a bit harder, but we’re not expecting satellites to stop,” Douglas Biesecker, a physicist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told ABC News.

The storm is forecasted to be a G-2 or G-3 on NOAA’s ascending five-point scale.

Biesecker said people should not worry about harmful radiation.

“The magnetic field around Earth is protecting us. That’s one of the great things about being on Earth,” he said.

The average person won’t be affected by the radiation unless they’re taking a flight with a polar route.

“Airlines will divert those flights because high frequency communications will be impacted,” he said.

The storm was set off by a chain of events Sunday evening.  A moderate solar flare erupted on the sun, which occurs tens of thousands of times every solar cycle, Biesecker said. The solar flare was associated with a coronal mass ejection, which is also a frequent occurrence.  However, this particular one was big and sent a cloud of plasma with a magnetic field hurdling toward Earth at four million miles per hour.

Earth experienced some of the radiation within an hour of Sunday’s solar flare.

“The ones that escape propagate to Earth at the speed of light,” Biesecker explained.

The geomagnetic storm is expected to last for one day.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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