Commentary on the economic , geopolitical and simply fascinating things going on. Served occasionally with a side of snark.
Friday, September 12, 2014
Space Weather Update ( September 12 , 2014 ) Government Expert: “There’s been a giant magnetic explosion on the sun… it’s pointed right at us” — CBC: “One of the biggest possible” solar flares — “Strong G3 level” predicted for Earth on Saturday .......... TV: Largest nuclear operator in US “prepared to take action if needed, to protect our systems
The sun fired off two giant bursts of charged plasma in our direction earlier this week. They hit the Earth's magnetic field Thursday night and midday Friday, creating strong geomagnetic storms that may cause disruptions to the world's electric grids, GPS, and radio systems throughout the weekend.
THESE STORMS WON'T DO MUCH DAMAGE — BUT FUTURE SOLAR STORMS COULD
Fortunately, these solar storms aren't expected to be catastrophic — and anyone living in the northern US or Canada might be able to see some colorful auroras on Friday and Saturday nights (see map below). But it is a reminder that the sun's occasional eruptions are capable of wreaking havoc here on Earth.
Space experts have long warned that if a truly massive solar stormever hit us — much bigger than the current one — it could knock out power grids across North America, leaving millions of people without electricity for months and causing widespread chaos. A storm that big hit Earth back in 1859(though there were no power grids then, just a bunch of telegraph wires that got frazzled), and we just barely missed getting blasted by a similar-sized solar eruption in 2012.
These solar storms won't cause too much damage
The recent solar eruptions are benign by comparison — though the fact that there were two of them arriving in such close proximity is unusual.
On September 9 and 10 of this week, two solar flares erupted from an active sunspot region, with the second being a large X1-class flare. Those flares sent two coronal mass ejections toward the Earth — that is, clouds of fast moving particles shot out of the sun's outer atmosphere. Here's a videoof the X-class flare on September 10, courtesy of NASA:
SOLAR STORMS CAN INTERFERE WITH POWER GRIDS, GPS, AND RADIO SYSTEMS
The first reached Earth on Thursday night, creating a "moderate" G2 geomagnetic storm when it hit our planet's magnetic field. (The scale goes from G1 to G5, with G5 being the strongest.) The second eruption hit Friday evening, and the interaction of the two events has created a strong G3 storm that's expected to last for hours or even days.
These geomagnetic storms don't harm people directly. But they can induce ground currents capable of overloading electric grids. They can also interfere with our GPS systems and force airplanes in polar regions to divert flights.
This weekend's storms are expected to cause only modest disruptions, officials from the Space Weather Prediction Center said. Even so, power grid operators are standing by "just in case."
:Product: 3-Day Forecast
:Issued: 2014 Sep 12 1230 UTC
# Prepared by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, NOAA, Space Weather Prediction Center
A. NOAA Geomagnetic Activity Observation and Forecast
The greatest observed 3 hr Kp over the past 24 hours was 5 (NOAA Scale
The greatest expected 3 hr Kp for Sep 12-Sep 14 2014 is 7 (NOAA Scale
NOAA Kp index breakdown Sep 12-Sep 14 2014
Sep 12 Sep 13 Sep 14
00-03UT 5 (G1) 6 (G2) 4
03-06UT 5 (G1) 7 (G3) 5 (G1)
06-09UT 2 6 (G2) 5 (G1)
09-12UT 3 5 (G1) 4
12-15UT 3 5 (G1) 3
15-18UT 3 4 3
18-21UT 3 5 (G1) 3
21-00UT 6 (G2) 5 (G1) 4
Rationale: G2 (Moderate) geomagnetic storms are expected by late on day
one (12 Sep) due to continued effects from the 09 Sep CME along with the
arrival of the 10 Sep CME. G3 (Strong) geomagnetic storms are expected
on day two (13 Sep) with continued CME effects. Unsettled to G1 (Minor)
storm levels are expected for day three (14 Sep) as CME influence begins
Source Link: http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/ftpdir/latest/three_day_forecast.txt
Gov’t Expert: “There’s been a giant magnetic explosion on the sun… it’s pointed right at us” — CBC: “One of the biggest possible” solar flares — “Strong G3 level” predicted for Earth on Saturday — TV: Largest nuclear operator in US “prepared to take action if needed, to protect our systems” (VIDEO)
Bloomberg, Sept. 12, 2014: Solar Storms Sending Biggest Threats to Earth Today and Tomorrow — 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… When the ejections reach Earth, they will touch off geomagnetic storms that are forecast to last at least until tomorrow… Earth should be spared the most crippling impacts of these kinds of events, which can include disruptions to electric grids… what worries scientists [and] electric grid operators… is that they can get big and cause severe problems.
Irish Examiner, Sept 11, 2014: A strong solar flare is blasting its way to Earth, but the worst of its power looks like it will barely skim above the planet and not cause many problems. It has been several years since Earth has had a solar storm of this size coming from sunspots smack in the middle of the sun, said Tom Berger, director of [NOAA's] Space Weather Prediction Centre in Boulder, Colorado… the soonest it could arrive is late tonight UK time (early Friday in the US). But it could be later, Berger said… “There’s been a giant magnetic explosion on the sun,” Berger said. “Because it’s pointed right at us, we’ll at least catch some of the cloud” of highly energised and magnetised plasma that can disrupt Earth’s magnetic sphere, which sometimes leads to temporary power grid problems.
NOAA, Sept. 12, 2014: The second of the expected coronal mass ejections (CMEs) has arrived… G2 (Moderate) storming is underway now and the forecast [is] for G3 (Strong) storming on the 13th.
NBC News, Sept. 12, 2014: The sun shot out a double burst of electrically charged particles — known as coronal mass ejections, or CMEs — directly toward us… one accompanied a strong X1.6 flare on Wednesday… Berger said the storm could reach a strong G3 level by Saturday. That means grid operators might have to adjust the levels on their dials… It might also be harder to lock onto a GPS reading… Some planes that typically fly over Earth’s north polar region may be following different routes.
CBC, Sept. 10, 2014: The sun spot eruption caused a particularly strong solar flare… On the so-called Richter scale of solar flares, it registered as an X1, making it one of the biggest possible… CME can affect solar wind flow and “produce disturbances that strike the Earth with sometimes catastrophic results,” according to the [NASA] website.
WFLA, Sept. 11, 2014: Two giant solar flares head to earth — Scientists warn two solar flares heading our way are some of the biggest seen in several years… A spokesman with Duke Energy tells us – “We are prepared to take action if needed, to protect our systems.”