May 30, 2024

The Lake Tribune

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A Rare Severe Geomagnetic Storm Watch has been Issued for the First Time in Nearly 20 Years

2 min read

Map shows the aurora borealis (northern lights) forecast for May 10-12, 2024. (Photo By NEXT WEATHER)

United States (The Lake Tribune) – For the first time in nearly two decades, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has issued a watch for a severe G4 geomagnetic storm, expected to occur this Friday. This alert follows a series of intense solar activities, including multiple explosions of plasma and magnetic fields aimed at Earth, signaling potential widespread impacts.

Geomagnetic storms, ranked from G1 to G5, with G5 being the most severe, can significantly affect power grids, satellite operations, and navigation systems. G4 storms are capable of causing voltage control problems and may disrupt protective systems, potentially tripping key assets off the power grid. Spacecraft could also experience orientation issues, and the aurora borealis may be visible as far south as Alabama and northern California.

The series of solar events triggering this alert began on May 8, when a large sunspot cluster, identified as AR3664, produced several moderate to strong solar flares. This sunspot, measuring approximately 124,000 miles across, is among the most significant and active observed in this solar cycle. This sunspot is so big you may be able to see it with your own eyes

Additionally, NOAA has tracked multiple coronal mass ejections (CMEs) from these solar flares, with at least five directed toward Earth. These CMEs are expected to arrive by midday Friday and could continue affecting Earth through Sunday. The cumulative effect of these CMEs colliding could potentially escalate into a “low-end G5 event,” though this remains uncertain.

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center has been in communication with operators of vulnerable systems, advising them to take protective measures to mitigate potential disruptions. The intensity of the storm will become clearer once the CMEs reach about a million miles from Earth, expected around 8 p.m. ET on Friday.

This severe storm watch, the first for a G4 event since January 2005, highlights the rare intensity of the current solar activity. NOAA officials continue to monitor the situation closely, underscoring the importance of preparedness for infrastructural impacts stemming from these powerful geomagnetic disturbances.

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