Blast from Sun Unsettles Earth’s Magnetic Field, but No Storming

January 13, 2014  - By 3 Comments
Image of the sun on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, from the Solar X-Ray Imager on NOAA's GOES satellite, taken just after the maximum emission of a solar flare. The eruption came from the middle of the sun and is directed toward Earth. This is the largest solar flare so far this year.

Image of the sun on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, from the Solar X-Ray Imager on NOAA’s GOES satellite, taken just after the maximum emission of a solar flare. The eruption came from the middle of the sun and is directed toward Earth. This is the largest solar flare so far this year.

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.

Space weather explained (source: NOAA).

Space weather explained (source: NOAA).

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.

For more information, visit the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center or follow space weather on Facebook.

GPS World staff

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3 Comments on "Blast from Sun Unsettles Earth’s Magnetic Field, but No Storming"

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  1. JJM says:

    Did the solar cycle PEAK in 2013 or are we still in a high activity potential.

    • Eric Gakstatter Eric Gakstatter says:

      The general consensus it that the peak was May 2013. However, note that historically speaking, the most extreme geomagnetic storms occur in the two years following the peak such as the Halloween storms of 2003 that occurred after the peak of Solar Cycle 23.

      • JJM says:

        Thanks for the clarification and for the Historical as a warning to remain alert for another year+. Not to mention that even during a low activity period, an explosion directed at our planet could be troublesome or disastrous. So stay subscribed to NOAA.

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