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Solar storm: Blackout risk as NASA warns of 'direct hit' on Earth – impact time predicted

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NASA and the NOAA projection models indicate that a solar storm will strike the Earth’s magnetic field in two days’ time and will then “intensify”. Space weather physicist Tamitha Skov tweeted: ”Direct hit – solar storm prediction models from both NOAA and NASA show the storm hits April 14, just ahead of a fast solar wind stream. “This should intensify the storm as the stream will give it a push from behind!“

She added this morning: “Chances of reaching G2-level conditions are 80 percent at high latitudes and 20 percent at mid-latitudes.

“Radio blackout risk remains low, but amateur #radio operators and GPS users face disruptions on Earth’s nightside.”

When geomagnetic storms come into contact with the Earth’s magnetic field, they have been known to cause radio blackouts and can even cause power blackouts if they directly strike transformers.

NASA has predicted that a G2-class geomagnetic storm will arrive as a result of coronal mass ejection (CME).

A CME is a massive release of plasma that gets shot out from the Sun’s corona (outer layer).

CMEs contain billions of tonnes of fast-moving solar particles as well as the magnetic field that binds them.

These can cause geomagnetic storms when they come into contact with the Earth’s magnetic field.

The geomagnetic storm occurs if there is an efficient exchange of energy from the solar wind into the space environment surrounding the Earth.

The US Space Weather Center (SWPC) ranks solar storms on a scale of “G1 Minor”, the least intense, all the way up to “G5 Extreme”.

But even the weakest of storms threaten “power-grid fluctuations” and have a “minor impact on satellite operations”.

At the stronger end of the scale, is where it starts to get more dangerous.

When CMEs collide with Earth’s magnetosphere, “all of that extra radiation can damage the satellites we use for communications and navigation, it can disrupt power grids that provide our electricity”.

In the case of the incoming storms, it is also expected that these will cause auroras, like the famous Northern Lights.

The aurora borealis could even be visible, if skies are clear, in far northern England and Northern Ireland.

The Met Office said you may be able to catch a glimpse in the evenings from Sunday to Tuesday.

Ms Skov wrote: “Aurora field reporters, be sure to charge your camera batteries!”

She continued: “The NASA solar storm prediction model shows the hit occurring a little later on April 14 at 12pm UTC time compared to the NOAA model, which shows the arrival a bit earlier at 7am UTC time!

“Either way, both indicate an excellent chance for aurora!”

This also comes after a G3 geomagnetic storm already struck the Earth’s atmosphere earlier this week.

The storm, which started on Sunday and was reportedly still being felt yesterday, was classed as a major storm.

Experts have repeatedly warned that the Earth is not ready for the potential impacts that are caused when a G5 storm takes place.

The strongest solar storms can cause power outages that could even last days if the storm directly interferes with power transformers.

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.”



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