Massive solar storm

Posted on March 8, 2012


Coronal Mass EjectionWith superb timing for this issue, while the articles were being prepared news came of a vast solar storm heading for the Earth (Wednesday 7th March 2012 at 11:05 pm). Details can be found at the Guardian website, from which much of this article is directly drawn. Either use our link at Massive solar storm heading for Earth | Science | The Guardian or search for “solar flare news” on a well-known search engine. At the moment, the flare and associated coronal mass ejection have not yet struck Earth and should arrive tomorrow morning, 8th March 2012 so we are unable to tell you the consequences.

Just as we were saying in our – slightly earlier written – article about the solar weather in this issue, this is one more example of the sun heading towards a peak of activity we expect to reach maximum in or about 2013.

From the Guardian article:-

by David Batty and agency sources

Massive solar storm

The biggest solar storm in five years is heading to Earth at 4 million miles per hour, threatening flights and power lines. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Airlines and energy suppliers are on alert as the largest solar storm in five years heads toward Earth, threatening to disrupt flights and power lines.

The eruption on the surface of the sun, known as a coronal mass ejection (CME), has led to a “massive amount of solar particles heading towards Earth“, which are due to hit the planet between 6am and 10am on Thursday morning, a Met Office spokesman said. But he added that the phenomenon was likely to go unnoticed by most.

The forecaster has advised airlines that they may reroute planes from near the polar regions where the radiation caused by the storm is likely to be most intense, while energy suppliers have been warned that the National Grid could also be affected.

Solar storms can also cause communication problems, such as radio blackouts, as well as affecting satellites, disrupting oil pipelines and making global positioning systems (GPS) less accurate.

Aurora during a geomagnetic storm that was mos...It should arrive some time tomorrow morning and last through tomorrow,” the Met Office spokesman added. “In terms of what that means from the public’s point of view, there’s an increased chance of aurora borealis or Northern Lights being seen if conditions are right and the skies are clear.”

But Gemma Plumb, a forecaster with Meteogroup, said most of the UK would be cloudy during the solar storm.

She said: “From midnight there will be widespread cloud so there is unlikely to be much visibility.”

Forecasters at the US government’s Space Weather Prediction Center said the storm is growing in intensity as it speeds outward from the sun. The charged particles hit Earth at 4 million mph (6.4 million kph).

Nasa solar physicist Alex Young said: “It could give us a bit of a jolt.”

The solar storm is likely to last until Friday morning, although further eruptions may follow.

In North America, auroras or Northern Lights could stretch as far south as the Great Lakes states or even lower, but a full moon will make them hard to see, said Joe Kunches, a scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Solar storms have three ways they can disrupt technology on Earth: with magnetic, radio and radiation emissions. This is an unusual situation when all three types of emissions are likely to be strong, Kunches said.

In 1989, a strong solar storm knocked out the power grid in Quebec, Canada, leaving 6 million people without power.

Harlan Spence, an astrophysicist at the University of New Hampshire who is principal investigator on the Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation (CRaTER) aboard Nasa’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, said the sun was on the ascendant phase of its 11-year cycle of solar activity, with the peak expected next year.

It’s a clear harbinger that the Sun is waking up,” Spence told Reuters.

Changed Times says:-

The timing of the flare might seem to be perfect for this issue but it is no conspiracy: it was inevitable that such a flare would happen sooner rather than later and it just happened to turn up while the current issue was being compiled. unless you happen to be sat up there on the ISS tomorrow morning (Thursday 8th March 2012) the chances are you will not notice the solar storm at all. At best, you may see an aurora if you are lucky.

Should this one happen to affect local power supplies – and it is certainly large enough to do so if it comes to Earth at unlucky places or times – then you may see the effects a large storm can have. In al probability though, it will pass by unnoticed by most of us down here on Mother Earth. So take care and sleep well while you wait for the next one…