Another Solar Geomagnetic Storm Coming March 11, 2012

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Home / Another Solar Geomagnetic Storm Coming March 11, 2012

There's another geomagnetic storm brewing. Image courtesy of Jónína Óskarsdóttir via NASA

Effects of Solar Storms on Earth

When a solar storm ejects material, mostly in the form of protons and electrons, from the Sun, astronomers call the resulting stream of energetic particles a Coronal Mass Ejection, or CME. If the CME is aimed towards Earth, and strikes Earth’s magnetic field, a geomagnetic storm results as the energetic protons and electrons interact with Earth’s magnetic field.

The Space weather division of the NOAA classifies geomagnetic storms from G1, minor storms, to G5, extreme storms. The NOAA website lists the possible effects on Earth of the classes of geomagnetic storms, and predicts that the storm resulting from today’s flare will reach G3 level, or a strong storm.

Damage and Blackouts Due to Solar Storms?

Extreme geomagnetic storms can interfere with power grids and cause widespread blackouts. The effects of strong geomagnetic storms are however much less severe – don’t expect widespread power outages from this storm.

The ignorance industry has generated a lot of nonsense about solar storms ending the world in 2012. These claims sometimes include claims of solar storms causing earthquakes, volcanoes, and shifting magnetic poles, and other catastrophes. All such claims are nonsense. Solar storms can not drive tectonic activity in Earth’s interior.

The Aurora Borealis or Australis, also known as the northern or southern lights, are the most visible result of geomagnetic storms. During relatively weak geomagnetic storms, the aurora are visible near the poles at high northern or southern latitudes. The stronger a particular geomagnetic storm is, the further from the poles aurora will be visible. If you live at moderately high latitudes, comparable to northern United States, you might be able to see the northern lights on the night of March 11. If it happens, enjoy.

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