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Geomagnetic Storm Impacts Earth, Solar Flare Outburst Amplifies Auroras



Geomagnetic Storm Impacts Earth, Solar Flare Outburst Amplifies Auroras

A major geomagnetic storm is currently affecting Earth as a result of a heightened solar flare activity, announced by the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) on Sunday. Despite the intensity of the storm, the U.S. region may not witness the typical aurora phenomenon that usually accompanies such astronomical events.

The SWPC had initially issued a geomagnetic storm watch on Saturday which was expected to continue through Monday due to a coronal mass ejection (CME) heading towards Earth. The storm was forecasted to reach G2 ‘moderate’ to G3 ‘strong’ levels. However, a sudden escalation has now propelled the storm into severe G4 conditions, raising concerns about its potential impact.

A coronal mass ejection, or CME, represents an explosion of plasma and magnetic material from the sun that can intersect with Earth within a few hours. This interaction can generate currents in Earth’s magnetic field that redirect particles towards the North and South Poles, causing the mesmerizing aurora borealis in the process.

The strength of the geomagnetic storm determines the extent to which the auroras will be visible. SWPC uses a scale to measure the intensity of these storms, with levels ranging from G1 to G5. G1 storms are considered minor and may only lead to aurora sightings in certain regions, while G5 storms, categorized as extreme, could extend the auroras to much wider areas.

Geomagnetic storms have potential repercussions beyond just visual phenomena. Major solar activities like CMEs trigger alerts from the SWPC, notifying users of high-frequency radios, airlines, and utility operators about possible disruptions in communication systems, GPS signals, and power grids.

While the U.S. region may have missed the prime window for witnessing the auroras due to the heightened activity occurring during daylight, areas in northern Europe and Asia might have more chances of spotting the colorful display. The SWPC has suggested that there could be auroras visible over a significant portion of the northern U.S. if the storm maintains G4 levels.

As the geomagnetic storm progresses, there may be fluctuations in its intensity due to variations in solar wind as the CME continues to pass over Earth. While the public is not currently at risk, infrastructure operators have been advised to take precautionary measures to mitigate any potential impacts.

Rachel Adams

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