Yesterday, the National Weather Service’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) upgraded the Geomagnetic Storm Watch then in effect to a Geomagnetic Storm Warning after detecting the early arrival of a strong solar wind.
The SWPC said minor to moderate geomagnetic storm levels were being observed which indicated the early arrival of an anticipated coronal mass ejection that left the Sun on Sunday, April 22. The enhancement in solar wind parameters were first observed by the DSCOVR spacecraft.
The strong solar wind was expected to cause auroral enhancements that might be visible at night in higher latitudes under favorable sky conditions. Due to the strength of this disturbance , aurora could be visible as far south as Idaho and New York.
While this storm is considered a moderate “G2” level storm, limited impacts are expected. These include voltage alarms for high-latitude power systems and possible disruptions to radio communications. There also could be transformer damage should this event last long.
Ground control teams for spacecraft above Earth may also need to move or orient their equipment in space in a way to reduce the threat of damage.
It all starts with a solar flare on the surface of the sun. According to NASA, solar flares are a sudden explosion of energy as a result of crossing or reorganizing magnetic field lines near sunspots. Solar activity, like flares, are not uncommon, but some periods of time are far more active than others. The intensity and size of each flare also varies.
When monitoring solar activity, scientists watch for a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) which is a giant bubble of radiation exploding into space at a fast speed. CMEs sometime happen with a solar flare when the sun’s magnetic fields reorganize.