Solar storm bludgeons Earth as CME strikes; Can intensify in next few hours

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Yesterday, March 14, NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) reported that a huge explosion took place on the farside of the Sun which spewed out an extremely rare coronal mass ejection (CME) clouds that were traveling at mind-bending speeds exceeding 3000 kilometers per second. Due to such a high speed, shock waves have been released, which sent some of the solar particles in the Earth’s direction. Just hours back, these clouds made it to the Earth and sparked a solar storm. Worryingly, the storm can intensify in the hours to come.

The incident was reported by which noted in its website, “A CME just hit Earth’s magnetic field (March 15 @ 0415 UT), sparking a G1-class solar storm. Currently, conditions favor the development of even stronger G2-class storms in the hours ahead”. It appears that the strengthening of the solar storm is being caused by solar winds which are adding more speed and magnetic flux to the CME particles.

Solar storm strikes the Earth

The forecast has revealed a solar storm between G1 and G2-class that will affect the Earth. These two categories are quite different when it comes to their impact. A G1-class solar storm is generally harmless and only produces weak auroras in the higher latitudes. However, if it is a G2-class solar storm, it could be more intense than expected.

A G2-class storm can disrupt wireless communications and GPS services, causing trouble for airlines, mariners, ham radio controllers and drone operators. The solar storm can delay flights, cause ships to change course and disrupt any important information that is shared through these low frequency channels. Additionally, more powerful solar storms (G3 and above) can potentially damage satellites, break down mobile networks and internet services, cause power grid failures and corrupt sensitive ground-based electronics. However, it is unlikely that this particular solar storm will get stronger than G3-class.

NOAA’s DSCOVR satellite’s role in solar storm monitoring

NOAA monitors the solar storms and Sun’s behavior using its DSCOVR satellite which became operational in 2016. The recovered data is then run through the Space Weather Prediction Center and the final analysis is prepared. The different measurements are done on temperature, speed, density, degree of orientation and frequency of the solar particles.

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