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May 29, 2024

NOAA Issues Geomagnetic Storm Watch As Large Solar Flare Expected To Hit Earth

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Jan 23, 2024

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has issued a geomagnetic storm watch for January 23rd, as a large solar flare from the Sun is expected to reach Earth. The incoming solar storm could cause disruption to GPS networks and radio communications across parts of North America.

Large Sunspot Produces Strong Solar Flare

On January 20th, a large sunspot dubbed AR3182 produced a strong solar flare, classified as an X1 flare on the solar flare scale.

According to space weather physicist Dr. Tamitha Skov:

“This explosion produced a fast Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) with an Earth-directed component. The CME’s speed clocked in at 973 km/s – fast enough to deliver a glancing blow to our planet’s magnetic field.”

The solar flare and resulting CME traveled at high velocity directly towards Earth.

Geomagnetic Storm Watch Issued

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center issued a Geomagnetic Storm Watch for January 23rd, indicating the incoming solar storm could cause a moderate or strong geomagnetic storm.

When the CME reaches Earth on January 23rd, the influx of charged particles is expected to stimulate increased auroral activity. This could make the Northern Lights visible further south than usual across parts of the northern United States.

Additionally, the incoming solar storm may cause disruption to power grids, GPS networks, satellite communications, radio transmissions, and more across North America.

According to NOAA, impacts from the storm could persist into January 24th as well.

Visibility of Northern Lights

The influx of charged particles from the CME could make for vibrant Northern Lights displays across northern U.S. states like:

  • Washington
  • Montana
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Minnesota
  • Wisconsin
  • Michigan
  • Maine
  • Vermont
  • New Hampshire
  • New York

Cloud cover and weather conditions will be a factor in visibility. Ideal viewing of the Northern Lights requires clear, dark skies. Light pollution from urban areas can also reduce visibility.

Potential Impacts

When geomagnetic storms occur, fluctuations in the magnetic field can induce extra electrical currents in power lines, oil pipelines, railroads, and more. This can cause issues like:

  • Power grid fluctuations/failures
  • Pipeline corrosion
  • Railroad signaling issues

Disruption to GPS networks and satellite communications is also possible, potentially causing issues with:

  • Cell phone coverage
  • Internet connectivity
  • GPS navigation
  • Satellite TV/radio
  • Airplane navigation systems

Impacts to astronaut safety at the International Space Station are unlikely, as the station has protective shielding against solar radiation.

According to NOAA scientist Dr. Rob Steenburgh:

“Impacts to our infrastructure are unlikely, but the event merits monitoring. Satellite operators and power grid managers will be on alert, but consumers shouldn’t expect disruptions to daily activities.”

Monitoring the Situation

Space weather scientists will be closely monitoring the situation over the coming days. Updates on the storm’s progress and any observed impacts will be made available.

Members of the public are encouraged to follow local alerts and exercise caution around potential infrastructure issues like GPS or radio disruption during the storm period.

Responsible agencies like NASA and NOAA will continue observing solar activity and issuing advisories as needed. Further geomagnetic storm watches are possible if additional significant solar storms occur.

What To Do If You Notice Impacts

If you observe localized infrastructure impacts you believe may be related to geomagnetic storm activity, contact the proper authorities, for example:

  • Power company for electrical issues
  • Public works department for problems with oil pipelines or railroads
  • FAA air traffic control for airplane navigation issues

Additionally, submit a report to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation or NASA’s Space Weather Database of Notifications, Knowledge, Information so they can log any storm-related impacts centrally.

Responsible public reporting assists space weather monitoring and prediction efforts.

Visibility Factors for Northern Lights

If you attempt viewing the Northern Lights during the geomagnetic storm period, here are optimal visibility factors to consider:

Factor Description
Clear Skies Any cloud cover can block visibility of the aurora. Aim for completely clear, dark skies.
Limited Light Pollution Avoid areas with excessive artificial lighting like city centers when possible. Light pollution can drown out the aurora.
Active Aurora Oval Consult aurora oval forecasts to determine expected strength over your area. A stronger active oval means more visible activity.
Adjust Your Eyes Allow around 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark for ideal viewing capacity. Don’t look at bright lights during this adjustment period.
Look North Focus viewing towards the northern horizon rather than straight overhead. This is where active “curtains” of the aurora tend to be most visible.
Higher Latitude The further north you are, the more active the aurora oval, improving visibility. But the aurora can sometimes be seen quite far south during intense solar activity.
Magnetic North Determine true magnetic north rather than geographic for most accurate aiming, as the aurora aligns with Earth’s magnetic field.
Stay Alert Auroral visibility can change quickly. Keep scanning the horizon and be patient.

Following these tips can help maximize your chances of catching the Northern Lights during active geomagnetic storm periods. Check official geomagnetic and auroral activity forecasts for your region for the latest visibility expectations.

References

https://www.wsav.com/news/national-news/geomagnetic-storm-watch-issued-northern-lights-could-come-to-these-states/

https://interestingengineering.com/science/geomagnetic-storm-northern-lights-us

https://www.foxweather.com/earth-space/aurora-where-northern-lights-monday-geomagnetic-storm

https://www.timesnownews.com/technology-science/direct-hit-solar-storm-warns-strong-geomagnetic-storm-on-earth-tomorrow-article-107024677

https://www.wftv.com/news/trending/solar-storm-hit-earth-today-possibly-causing-gps-radio-disruption/M5ZB7V3T5VDGBEZBOWR4RA3AZU/

https://abcnews.go.com/US/solar-storm-week-cause-tech-disruptions-noaa-expert/story?id=106564220

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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