The coronal mass ejection (CME) cloud which was predicted to hit the Earth yesterday never arrived on time. Instead, a new forecast has revealed that it is likely to strike our planet today, April 21. But this delayed movement of the cloud has now created a complication for us. As per the UK Met Office forecasters, there is a second slow-moving but wide CME cloud which is just behind the first one. And now, both of them can strike the Earth together and create a more powerful solar storm. Further, it also remains to be seen whether other solar disturbances such as any solar flare eruption or fast-moving solar wind’s presence can further intensify the incoming storm.
Space weather physicist Tamitha Skov responded through a tweet explaining her understanding of this entire situation. She said, “Not sure about narrower, but faster is a distinct possibility. There is also a real chance this could be a composite event with several ICMEs back to back. Perhaps an earlier slow CME (solar storm) has been slammed into and accelerated by the faster CME launched on April 16”.
A dangerous solar storm can strike the Earth today
Put simply, what could have been two separate solar storm events with minor G1-class geomagnetic storms, is now going to combine together and create a much more intense storm. And as explained, the addition of a flare eruption or solar winds can only further complicate matters.
As such, it is not possible to say how strong the incoming solar storm can be. But, many fear that given the right circumstances, the overall impact can be quite strong. It should be noted that a powerful solar storm can potentially damage satellites, break down mobile networks and internet services, cause power grid failures, and corrupt sensitive ground-based electronics.
NOAA’s DSCOVR satellite’s role in solar storm monitoring
NOAA monitors 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.