September 8, 2017

NOW! Update #3: Solar storm sparks aurora, disturbs GPS and HAM radio

Posted by larryohanlon

When events call scientists to action, AGU wants to keep you updated with what scientists are talking about. Check back for updates on science happening now from Eos staff writer JoAnna Wendel and science writer Larry O’Hanlon. You can also get updates via the AGU twitter account: @theAGU

Update #3, 11:30 am EDT, 8 Sept. 2017: Solar storm sparks aurora, disturbs GPS and HAM radio

What’s the connection between the hurricanes and the solar storm? Communications! The Sun is spitting and popping in ways that interfere with amateur radio and GPS communications. That means all those HAM radio volunteers who work with emergency services are fighting to hear each other, and GPS may be unreliable for aircraft and other users. This is the current radio blackout report from the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center



Notice that Florida, Mexico and Texas and right near the middle of that green blob? Not good!

As for the aurora displays, the headline from, below, says it all. Also check out their real-time aurora gallery for amazing images of this cosmic light show. Another great resource is Twitter. Just search for #aurora and #northernlights. 


And the show is not over yet, as weather forecaster Chad Sandwell tweeted this morning: 

Also from the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center we have an updated table indicating the powerful effects of the storm on Earth’s magnetosphere. 


Finally, for some great and detailed updates, you can’t beat the YouTube channel of Tamitha Skov. Here is her latest video from yesterday. Her next report should be a whopper!  



Update #2, 11:10 pm EDT, 7 Sept. 2017: THE BLAST FROM THE SUN HAS ARRIVED

This evening Earth was slammed by a blast of high-energy particles that erupted from a monster solar flare on Wednesday. Scott Sutherland shared the moment on Twitter…


The wave of hot particles — mostly electrons, protons an alpha particles — was clocked at 815 kilometers per second at one point. That’s more than 2.9 million kilometers per hour, or 1.8 million miles per hour. That’s a strong gale force solar wind! Naturally, all that is having an effect on Earth’s magnetic field. NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center updated with this graphic…


G4 (Severe) geomagnetic storm levels were observed at 23:50 UTC (19:50 Eastern) on 07 September and again at 01:51 UTC (21:51 Eastern) on 08 September due to effects from a coronal mass ejection. A G3 (Strong) or greater warning continues to be in effects until 06:00 UTC (02:00 Eastern) on 08 September.

What does G4 mean? the  NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center explains:

Power systems: Possible widespread voltage control problems and some protective systems will mistakenly trip out key assets from the grid.
Spacecraft operations: May experience surface charging and tracking problems, corrections may be needed for orientation problems.
Other systems: Induced pipeline currents affect preventive measures, HF radio propagation sporadic, satellite navigation degraded for hours, low-frequency radio navigation disrupted, and aurora has been seen as low as Alabama and northern California (typically 45° geomagnetic lat.).

Oh, and that reversed “C” surrounding the Arctic? It’s color-coded to show there the highest probability of visible aurora, or northern lights right now. If you are in Siberia, northern Europe, Iceland, Greenland, the northeasterm U.S. or eastern Canada — get outside and take a look! 


Update #1, 5:30 pm EDT, 7 Sept. 2017: Overture to a Geomagnetic Storm

The light show has begun from the smaller solar flare of a few days back. For those lucky enough to be at high latitudes and have clear skies, the arrival of the solar storm means auroras. The aurora activity is expected to increase tomorrow with the arrival of the materials ejected from the Sun during yesterday’s X9.3 class flare — the 14th most powerful solar flare since 1976. This ejection is what’s called a Coronal Mass Ejection, or CME. Here’s what the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center is saying: 

NG3 (Strong) geomagnetic storm levels are likely for the next
three days (07-09 Sep) as a result of an inbound CME from 04 Sep,
followed by the arrival of the CME associated with the X9 flare,
mid-to-late on day two (08 Sep).

Here are a few images from Twitter of the current aurora activity. 



If you capture any images, tweet them at @TweetAurora. Liz MacDonald is watching for your tweets! And if you want more on how aurora are created, Aurorasaurus has a great resource page



1:00 pm EDT, 7 Sept. 2017 

Storms from space have no names. That includes the remarkable geomagnetic tempest about to be unleashed on Earth by a series of flares, including a “decade-class flare” that erupted on Sept. 6. The source is a large sunspot group called AR12673, which has already blasted Earth’s upper atmosphere with x-rays. AR 12673 has also ejected tsunamis of high-energy, magnetized particles that are charging across interplanetary space and expected to reach Earth on Friday. For more details on the coming space weather storm see


On Sept. 6 a giant new sunspot group released a X-9-class flare. NOAA space weather forecasters say a G3-class geomagnetic storm could be on the way. (Animation from SOHO, ESA/NASA



Diana Morosan tweeted this amazing video of another flare that erupted just hours ago. There be monsters here



Shane Maloney tweeted this video about the X9.3 flare of Sept. 6, which reveals more of its structure. 



Sophie Murray gives us some data on the generous AR12673…



Finally, not all eruptions are created equally. Here two flares from AR12673 are compared side-by-side.



As for why this is happening now — right when the Sun is supposedly reaching the minimum activity of 11-year minimum, Thomas Zurbuchen has the answer to that…