An M-class solar flare erupted from the sun yesterday, exploding the Earth with X-rays and UV rays, triggering a shortwave radio blackout on parts of the globe; NOAA forecasters say there is a risk of additional solar flares today through Monday, which could also be Class M. Yesterday’s solar flare erupted from the Active Region-2911 sunspot ; additional flares could originate from active region 2909. NOAA says there is a possibility of solar flares from active regions 2908 and 2907, but they say these areas “exhibited gradual decay” that would make them less likely to trigger Earth-bound eruptions.
The larger solar flares are called “Class X flares” based on a classification system that divides solar flares based on their strength. The smallest are class A, followed by B, C, M, and X. Similar to the Richter scale for earthquakes, each letter represents a 10-fold increase in energy production. In each class of letters, there is a finer scale from 1 to 9.
A huge Class X eruption, which is ten times a Class M eruption and 100 times a Class C eruption, erupted just before Halloween, triggering a major geomagnetic storm on Earth.
These solar flares could create solar radiation storms on Earth. Solar radiation storms occur when a large-scale magnetic flare accelerates charged particles in the solar atmosphere to very high speeds, according to the SWPC. The most important particles are the protons which can be accelerated to large fractions of the speed of light. At these speeds, protons can rush to Earth within an hour of the explosion. When these particles reach Earth, the rapidly moving protons enter the magnetosphere which shields the Earth from lower energy charged particles. Once inside the magnetosphere, particles are guided along magnetic field lines and enter the atmosphere near the north and south poles.
Solar radiation storms can cause several impacts near Earth. When energetic protons collide with satellites or humans in space, they can penetrate deep into the object they collide with and damage electronic circuitry or biological DNA. During the most extreme solar radiation storms, passengers and crew of aircraft flying at high altitudes can be exposed to radiation hazards. During such storms, commercial aircraft can be diverted from areas with the greatest radiation risk. According to the SWPC, when energetic protons collide with the atmosphere, they ionize atoms and molecules, creating free electrons. These electrons create a layer near the bottom of the ionosphere that can absorb high frequency (HF) radio waves making radio communication difficult, if not impossible.
NOAA’s SWPC categorizes solar radiation storms using its space weather scale on a scale of S1 to S5. A solar radiation storm can persist for periods ranging from a few hours to several days.
NOAA forecasters analyze various solar data from spacecraft to determine the impacts a geomagnetic storm could produce. If Earth experiences the effects of a coronal hole and a coronal mass ejection is expected to impact Earth, the combined effects could result in a larger impact and a more intense geomagnetic storm. Analyzing data from the DSCOVER and ACE satellites is a way for forecasters to know when enhanced solar wind from a coral hole is about to arrive on Earth. A few things they look for in the data to determine when the enhanced solar wind comes to Earth:
• Solar wind speed increases
• The temperature increases
• Particle density decreases
• The strength of the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) increases
While these solar events can help light up the sky with stunning auroras, they can also cause considerable damage to electronics, power grids, and satellite and radio communications.
The 1859 incident, which occurred on September 1 and 2, 1859, is also known as the “Carrington Event”. This event took place as a powerful geomagnetic storm struck Earth during Solar Cycle 10. A CME struck Earth and caused the largest geomagnetic storm on record. The storm was so intense that it created extremely bright and vivid auroras all over the planet: the people of California thought the sun was rising early, the people of the Northeastern United States could read a newspaper at night thanks to in the bright aurora light, and people as far south as Hawaii and south-central Mexico could see the aurora in the sky.
The event severely damaged the limited power and communication lines that existed at the time; telegraph systems around the world have failed, with some telegraph operators reporting receiving electric shocks.
A study carried out in June 2013 by Lloyd’s of London and Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER) in the United States showed that if the Carrington event occurred in modern times, damage in the United States could exceed 2.6 trillion dollars. dollars, or about 15% of the country’s annual GDP.
Although they are generally known for their weather forecasts, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its National Weather Service (NWS) are also responsible for “space weather”. While there are private companies and other agencies that monitor and forecast space weather, the official source of space environment alerts and warnings is the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC). The SWPC is located in Boulder, Colorado and is a service center for the NWS, which is part of NOAA. The Space Weather Prediction Center is also one of nine National Environmental Prediction Centers (NCEP) as they monitor current space weather activity 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.