Solar storm TODAY: Tech blackouts and aurora possible as forecasters issue storm watch

A geomagnetic storm watch is in effect today from Thursday, May 16, to Friday, May 17. Space weather forecasters at the US Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) have tracked three waves of solar energy washing over the Earth. The solar energy from three so-called Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) has triggered a disturbance in the planet’s magnetosphere. CMEs are powerful bursts of charged particles and plasma aimed towards the Earth.

The SWPC said: A G2 Moderate geomagnetic storm watch has been issued for May 16, 2019, due to a series of CMEs expected to arrive begging on May 15 and lasting through May 17.

“A G1 Minor storm watch is in effect from May 15-17 as well.”

Today’s G2 storm is expected to produce mesmerising aurora effects throughout the northernmost parts of the Northern Hemisphere.

In North America, the SWPC predicts aurora or Northern Lights to be visible as far down south as Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota.

Auroras should also be visible over vast swathes of central Russia, Finland, Sweden and Norway.

Some aurora might even be visible at the northernmost tip of Scotland.

The Northern Lights are triggered by solar winds exciting particles of oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere.

Excited particles vibrate at various frequencies and glow in different hues of blue, green, yellow, red and purple.

But there are also more dangerous effects associated with solar storms interfering with the Earth’s atmosphere.

While the storms create beautiful aurora, they also can disrupt navigation systems

Space Weather Prediction Center

Moderate G2 storms have the power to disrupt power grids by causing transformer damage in “high-latitude” power systems.

Spacecraft operations can also be impacted and “corrective actions to orientation may be required by ground control”.

Satellite systems and GPS can also be affected.

And according to the SWPC, G2 storms have been known to cause aurora effects as far down south as New York and Idaho.

The SWPC said: “During storms, the currents in the ionosphere, as well as the energetic particles that precipitate into the ionosphere add energy in the form of heat that can increase the density and distribution of density in the upper atmosphere, causing extra drag on satellites in low-earth orbit.

“The local heating also creates strong horizontal variations in the ionospheric density that can modify the path of radio signals and create errors in the positioning information provided by GPS.

“While the storms create beautiful aurora, they also can disrupt navigation systems such as the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and create harmful geomagnetic induced currents (GICs) in the power grid and pipelines.”

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