Published By: Admin

Earth Witnesses A Powerful Solar Storm After 20 Years. Here's How A Solar Storm Can Impact Earth And You?

With a powerful solar storm brewing in outer space, it can majorly impact Earth's critical infrastructure.

Amid reports of a severe solar storm expected to hit Earth this weekend, the US Space Weather Prediction Center had no choice but to issue a rare Severe (G4) Geomagnetic Storm Watch. The magnitude of the solar storm is the second-highest on a five-step scale, and being the first of its kind since January 2005, which means in almost 20 years, it can pose significant threats to Earth and its people.

"NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) — a division of the National Weather Service — is monitoring the sun following a series of solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that began on May 8. 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," the SWPC said in a press statement.

The agency further mentioned that a large sunspot cluster has led to moderate to strong solar flares since Wednesday at 5:00 am ET. Out of them, at least five flares appeared to be Earth-directed, and now NOAA and NASA's space assets will forecast the geomagnetic storm, it added. .

"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," added the US agency.

How can it impact Earth and you?

The solar storm can lead to blackouts and disruptions to navigation systems, and also interfere with high-frequency radios worldwide. Not just that, trans-polar flights between Europe, Asia, and North America are now being planned to be rerouted in order to minimise radiation exposure for passengers and crew members.

Nonetheless, solar storms do have a major impact on the communication and satellite networks. It means it can adversely disrupt services like weather forecasting, GPS navigation, and other satellite-reliant services. Solar storms can also trigger geomagnetically induced currents (GICs), which might end up overloading electrical systems. If the electrical systems get overloaded, it would lead to voltage regulation problems, transformer damage, and large-scale power outages in areas affected.

Meanwhile, solar storms of such magnitude also pose health hazards to humans, especially airline crew and passengers. If the flights are at high latitudes, the amount of solar and cosmic radiation, which reaches the upper parts of Earth's atmosphere, increases manifold during solar storms.

Nonetheless, the people on Earth are guarded by the Earth's magnetic field, but unprepared electric grids can be disrupted and pipelines can have current while spacecraft can be knocked down. Earth last witnessed a G5 storm – the worst on the scale – in October 2003. At the time, there were power outages in Sweden and major damages to transformers in South Africa.