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Charles Kennedy

Charles Kennedy

Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com

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Biggest Solar Storm in 19 Years Could Disrupt Electric Grids

  • Electric power grids, navigation, radio, and satellite operations could be disrupted by a severe solar storm this weekend.
  • The last time the Earth was hit by a G5 storm, classified as “extreme”, in 2003, power outages hit Sweden and transformers were damaged in South Africa.
  • The solar storm is expected to be the most severe in two decades.
Flare

The most severe solar storm in nearly two decades could disrupt electric power grids, navigation, radio, and satellite operations on Friday and Saturday, NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) said in a warning today, in the first such severe solar storm advisory since 2005.

SWPC, a division of the National Weather Service, said that “Space weather forecasters have issued a Severe (G4) Geomagnetic Storm Watch for the evening of Friday, May 10. Additional solar eruptions could cause geomagnetic storm conditions to persist through the weekend.”

G4 is the second most severe storm on the scale, preceded only by a G5 solar storm.

The last time the Earth was hit by a G5 storm, classified as “extreme”, in 2003, power outages hit Sweden and transformers were damaged in South Africa.

A large sunspot cluster has produced several moderate to strong solar flares since Wednesday at 5:00 a.m. ET. At least five flares were associated with coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that appear to be Earth-directed, SWPC said.

These CMEs are explosions of plasma and magnetic fields from the sun’s corona. They cause geomagnetic storms when they are directed at Earth.

“Geomagnetic storms can impact infrastructure in near-Earth orbit and on Earth’s surface, potentially disrupting communications, the electric power grid, navigation, radio and satellite operations. SWPC has notified the operators of these systems so they can take protective action,” the center said.

Geomagnetic storms can also trigger spectacular displays of Northern Lights on Earth. A severe geomagnetic storm includes the potential for aurora to be seen as far south as Alabama and Northern California, SWPC said.

In the UK, the Met Office also said that there is “a chance that aurora may become visible to all parts of the UK and similar geomagnetic latitudes.”

Moreover, some airlines could opt to reroute, if possible, trans-polar flights between Europe, Asia, and North America to avoid increased exposure to radiation for passengers and crews, Bloomberg notes.

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By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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  • DoRight Deikins on May 10 2024 said:
    And bury all your back-ups underground (100', 100m, who knows?). You do make back-ups, right?

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