Geomagnetic Storms and Why We Should Not Worry

- in My World
geomagnetic storm

Updated and corrected 03/20/2019

In the previous version of this story we indicated that the upcoming solar event is a massive magnetic storm, when in fact, it is a G1, the smallest classification for a geomagnetic storm and thus unlikely to interfere with any electrical equipment here. The original source already had rectified this information and we would like to do so now.

In this article was wrongly reported that the sun is entering an increased period of solar activity.

We apologize for the errors, and we’ll be more careful going forward. Our thanks to those who offered corrections. And we apologize for the confusion and misinformation.

Geomagnetic Storm

This geomagnetic storm is nothing to be afraid of. Some people may be affected more than others, but honestly, most of us do not even notice that. Unless you are old or you have your health in bad condition, you will probably think that you are having a rough day.

According to NOAA, a geomagnetic storm is:

“A geomagnetic storm is a major disturbance of the magnetosphere of the Earth. This happens when there is a very effective exchange of energy from the solar wind into the space environment surrounding the Earth. Such storms result from changes in the solar wind which produces major changes in the currents, plasmas, and fields in the magnetosphere of the Earth.

Coronal mass ejections and HSS

The largest storms resulting from such conditions are associated with solar coronal mass ejections. During the storm a billion tons of plasma are ejected from the Sun. The plasma with its embedded magnetic field, arrives at the Earth. The coronal mass ejections (CEMs) typically take a few days to arrive at Earth. However, some of the most intense storms, can arrive in 18 hours.

Another solar wind disturbance which creates conditions favorable to geomagnetic storms is a high-speed solar wind stream or HSS. The HSSs plow into the slower solar wind in front, and create co-rotating interaction regions or CIRs. These regions are usually related to geomagnetic storms which deposit more energy in the magnetosphere of the Earth over a longer interval.

Intense currents

Storms can also result in intense currents in the magnetosphere, changes in the radiation belts, as well as changes in the ionosphere which include heating the ionosphere and upper atmosphere region (the thermosphere). In space, a ring of westward current around Earth will produce magnetic disturbances on the ground. The disturbance storm time index is a measure of this current. This index characterizes the size of the geomagnetic storm. Additionally, there are currents in the magnetosphere which follow the magnetic field. Those are called field-aligned currents, and they connect with the intense currents in the auroral ionosphere. Such auroral currents,or electrojets, also produce large magnetic disturbances.

Together, all of the currents and the magnetic deviations that they produce on the ground are used to generate a planetary geomagnetic disturbance index (Kp). This index is also the basis for one of the three NOAA Space Weather Scales, the Geomagnetic Storm, or G-Scale, which is used to describe space weather which can disrupt systems on Earth.

The ionosphere

In the time of storms, the currents in the ionosphere, as well as the energetic particles which participate into the ionosphere, add energy in the form of heat which can increase the frequency and distribution of density in the upper atmosphere, causing some extra drag on satellites in low-earth orbit. The local heating also creates strong horizontal variations in the density of the ionosphere. This can modify the path of radio signals, as well as create errors in the positioning information provided by GPS. While the storms create beautiful aurora, they can also disrupt navigation systems like the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and they can create harmful geomagnetic induced currents (GICs) in the power grid and pipelines.”

Should we worry?

We think that during a geomagnetic storm you have to relax and not worry at all.


Did you know that such storms existed?

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