Solar storm could have major impacts on Earth, but it rarely happens

You may have spent a while on Saturday morning looking at your phone or computer — and wondering what in the world was so loud that it bounced all over the place? We’re talking about a solar storm. And if this all sounds like something that comes once every few decades, it does: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a solar storm watch, meaning that magnetic activity may be felt on Earth within 24 hours. That means that people could see “interplanetary auroras,” radio blackouts on Earth, and GPS and power grid troubles.

But, don’t forget: every time we’re told to expect something like this, it almost never happens. We really just want the northern lights to appear, but no, this should be fun to watch.

To be clear, “anomalous magnetic storms” are already here, and while they haven’t been extreme, they have definitely peaked our interest. As the U.S.’s chief scientist for climate science, Gavin Schmidt, tweeted on Saturday, “Insects use solar storms to try to travel to higher altitudes. That means these storms can have very big impacts.” That’s right: The sun can influence our climate, but it can also have weirdly minimal effects in the other direction.

The solar storm was generated by a solar flare that erupted on the sun on November 15, causing scientists to estimate that it is some third of the size of the Earth’s own sunspot group. It knocked out power in India and Indonesia and forced commercial space providers into emergency shut downs on Wednesday, among other things.

The solar storm watch on Saturday — which also involves NASA and NOAA — indicates that the flare may have been much larger than initially thought, and that that could mean intense auroras and even electromagnetic effects on the ground.

Read the full story at Huffington Post.


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