26 September 2011

Major Solar Storm Underway

Posted by Dan Satterfield

The sun is very active with numerous spots right now. Several of these are producing large solar flares.

A major coronal mass ejection has occurred on the sun and while it will only glance Earth, it is big enough to have caused a major warning from NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center. This is called a G3 warning and that means it’s a biggy.


  • A strong Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) has been observed and is partially-directed at Earth.
  • The Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) has issued a G3 (Strong) Geomagnetic Storm Warning.
  • Forecasters are awaiting the actual and imminent arrival of the CME to determine the exact magnitude of the storm.
  • The brunt of the flare is not expected to impact Earth, but even the edge will have sufficient energy to cause potential impacts.
  • Given the trajectory of the CME, it is likely that Europe would be at a greater risk for impacts, such as electrical grid disruptions.
  • SWPC is monitoring the situation, and a report will be issued when further information is received.

The amateur radio community follows the sun closely because of the effects on radio communications and here is a video uploaded by one of them with more info on the X 1.9 (upgraded to X2 now) flare from Saturday.

I ‘ve saved the best for last.

These events can produce spectacular displays of the northern and southern lights and one way of estimating how far south you might see them is the Kp index. Spaceweather.com posts the current index daily and it is now at 8! This means folks in the mid latitudes might see the lights tonight. Might is the operational word here, because space weather forecasting (from what I can gather talking to these folks) is far more difficult than forecasting the atmospheric weather!