Forecasters at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center said the sun’s coronal mass ejection (CME) that reached Earth on Jan. 9, unsettled the geomagnetic field but did not cause storm conditions to be reached due to the weak magnetic field. While there is still a chance we could see some geomagnetic storming, that threat is greatly diminished. The Space Weather Prediction Center is a division of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The sunspot in Region 1944 that produced the eruption at 1:32 p.m. EST Tuesday, January 7, has had no significant additional flaring and shows signs of decay.
How space weather affects real-time technology
Economies around the world have become increasingly vulnerable to the ever-changing nature of the sun. Solar flares can disrupt power grids, interfere with high-frequency airline and military communications, disrupt GPS signals, interrupt civilian communications, and blanket the Earth’s upper atmosphere with hazardous radiation.
Monitoring and forecasting solar outbursts in time to reduce their effect on space-based technologies have become new national priorities. And NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC), part of NOAA’s National Weather Service, is the nation’s official source of space weather forecasts, alerts, and warnings.
Monitoring the Sun
To monitor events on the sun, SWPC staff utilize a variety of ground- and space-based sensors and imaging systems to view activity at various depths in the solar atmosphere. A worldwide network of USAF-sponsored optical observatories also provides space weather forecasters with detailed, plain-language information about activity in and around sunspot groups, as well as other areas of interest on the sun.
Space weather forecasters also analyze the 27-day recurrent pattern of solar activity. Based on a thorough analysis of current conditions, comparing these conditions to past situations, and using numerical models similar to weather models, forecasters are able to predict space weather on times scales of hours to weeks.
With effective alerts and warnings, NOAA is helping to minimize the hazards of space weather on technology. For example, satellite operations can be adjusted, power grids can be modified, and polar flights can be rerouted.