Solar Storms Sending Biggest Threats to Earth Today and Tomorrow
by Brian K. Sullivan
Airlines have rerouted some flights and global positioning system and radio transmissions may be degraded through tomorrow as two solar eruptions strike Earth and affect its magnetic field.
The U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center is tracking two coronal mass ejections, “huge expulsions of magnetic field and plasma” that shot out of an area near the center of the sun’s disc.
See images of Coronal Mass Ejections
“Essentially the sun just shot out a magnet and it is about to interact with another magnet, Earth’s magnet,” William Murtagh, program coordinator of the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center, said yesterday. When the ejections reach Earth, they will touch off geomagnetic storms that are forecast to last at least until tomorrow.
The first wave of the two-part event arrived last night and the second one was detected at 12:09 p.m. New York time, the center said. A G2 geomagnetic storm was forecast for later today and a stronger G3 storm tomorrow. The last G3 storm to strike the Earth was June 29, 2013, the center said.
Geomagnetic storms, like hurricanes, are classified on a five-step scale with G1 being the weakest and G5 the strongest.
Radiation associated with the passages of the waves has been raised to an S2 level, which means passengers in high-flying aircraft at higher latitudes “may experience small, increased radiation exposures.”
United Airlines Inc. has rerouted a “few” flights from the U.S. to Asia that traverse the North Pole because of the storms, said Megan McCarthy, a spokeswoman for United Continental Holdings Inc.
See beautiful images of the Northern Lights
Some satellites may have minor problems, although Earth should be spared the most crippling impacts of these kinds of events, which can include disruptions to electric grids and radiation strong enough to cause polar flights to change routes, said Thomas Berger, the center’s director. People away from city lights may see a brilliant display in the northern sky.
Read the entire article
Image JA8209 (Solar Eruptions) ©NASA / SDO / Science Source