Massive solar storm to hit Earth today with danger of radio and internet blackouts

Storm could also result in spectacular auroras stretching much further into mid-latitudes on Friday

Vishwam Sankaran
Friday 01 December 2023 05:20 GMT

Related video: Experts Predict Solar Maximum Coming Much Sooner Than Anticipated

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Radio, internet and GPS fluctuations are likely in some parts of the world on Friday as a massive solar storm is predicted to hit the Earth, US forecasters say.

The solar storm, or coronal mass ejection (CME), could interfere with the Earth’s magnetic field and is likely to impact various forms of communications as well as sparking vibrant auroras, space weather physicist Tamitha Skov said.

“The storm is predicted to hit Earth by midday December 1... If the magnetic field is oriented correctly, expect aurora to reach deep into mid-latitudes. Amateur radio and GPS reception issues are likely, especially on Earth’s nightside,” Dr Skov posted on X.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other forecasters had already predicted that three solar storms were heading towards the Earth with some of them likely to merge to produce stronger magnetic field disruptions.

“Along with two earlier storms already en route [this] means we have a 1,2,3-punch,” Dr Skov said earlier, adding that there are “excellent chances” of strong G3-level magnetic storms and auroras on Earth.

The intensity of solar storms are denoted by the letter G followed by a number ranging from 1 to 5, 1 being the most minor event and 5 being the most extreme. G3 storms are strong events that are likely to cause intermittent satellite navigation and low-frequency radio navigation problems.

Skywatchers took to social media to share their photos and videos of stunning aurora displays in the northern hemisphere.

“With 3 CMEs already inbound, the addition of a 4th, full halo CME has prompted SWPC forecasters to upgrade the G2 Watch on 01 Dec to a G3 Watch. This faster-moving halo CME is progged to merge with 2 of the 3 upstream CMEs, all arriving at Earth on 01 Dec,” the NOAA said.

“G3 (strong) conditions are now likely on 01 Dec,” it added.

Solar storms are powerful energy blasts coming from the Sun containing the fourth state of matter plasma and ionised matter.

They are produced from solar flare events, which are explosive events on the Sun coming from the release of magnetic energy linked with sunspots.

The incoming solar storm arose from a strong flare near “Region 3500” on the Sun, scientists say.

Solar storms are known to interfere with the Earth’s magnetic field and cause damages to electrical grids, knock out satellites and in some cases disrupt internet connectivity.

The solar storm predicted to impact Earth on Friday could disrupt communication systems in high latitudes, experts say.

“Possibly G3-G4 level with this one, especially considering there are at least two solar storms already on their way, ahead of this one,” Dr Skov said.

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