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Beware! Geomagnetic storm set to hit Earth; may affect satellites, power; aurora set to be sparked

Weeks after solar storm reports, here comes another blast from space that may be headed for Earth. Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) has issued a Geomagnetic Storm Watch for Sunday, that is, September 26. The geomagnetic storm may cause the mesmerising aurora on Earth. The source behind it is the solar wind.
Weeks after solar storm reports, here comes another blast from space that may be headed for Earth. Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) has issued a Geomagnetic Storm Watch for Sunday, that is, September 26. The geomagnetic storm may cause the mesmerising aurora on Earth. The source behind it is the solar wind. (NOAA)

A geomagnetic storm is set to hit the Earth and may affect satellites and electricity grids. The US government’s space weather tracking body has warned the public about the possibility of a geomagnetic storm, which is different from a solar storm. The phenomenon is caused by the solar wind and it will likely spark an aurora.

After the solar storm, here comes the solar wind! Over the past couple of weeks, reports have detailed the devastating impact that solar storms or coronal mass ejections (CMEs) can have on the Internet infrastructure on Earth. Now, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) has issued a Geomagnetic Storm Watch for Sunday, that is, September 26. A geomagnetic storm is set to hit the Earth. The US government’s space weather tracking body has warned the public about the possibility of a of G1 or G2-level geomagnetic storm. Among some of its effects on Earth is that it is expected to light up the skies in the form of an aurora, aka Northern Lights,  and perhaps affect infrastructure. 

For the uninitiated, a geomagnetic storm is a major disturbance of Earth's magnetosphere that occurs when there is an exchange of energy from the solar wind into the space environment surrounding Earth. These storms result from variations in the solar wind that produces major changes in the currents, plasmas, and fields in Earth’s magnetosphere. According to SWPC, the largest storms that result from these conditions are associated with solar coronal mass ejections (CMEs) where a billion tons or so of plasma from the sun, with its embedded magnetic field, is shot outwards and it get directed at Earth.

SWPC has cautioned that the area of geomagnetic storm impact could primarily be poleward of 60 degrees geomagnetic latitude, which could cause power grid fluctuations and have a minor impact on satellites. In addition to this, SWPC said that the geomagnetic storm might cause aurora that might be visible at high latitudes, that is, the northern tier of the US such as northern Michigan and Maine.

Before you panic, G1 and G2 are Minor and Moderate level geomagnetic storms, which means that they are expected to cause significantly less damage than anticipated. While geomagnetic storms can cause weak power grid fluctuations, a G2 level storm can cause voltage alarms and transformer damage in high-latitude power systems. As far as spacecraft operations are concerned, while a G1 level geomagnetic storm can cause a minor impact on satellite operations, G2 level storm can cause issues to satellite systems that may require corrective actions to orientation.

As per a WeatherBoy report, a previous report by the Space Weather Forecast Discussion by SWPC had warned of the possibility of G2 level geomagnetic storm. “Isolated G1 (Minor) geomagnetic storming is likely 26 September as a positive polarity CH HSS extension from the Northern crown becomes geoeffective,” the report had said.

The SWPC, in its latest update, has raised it Geomagnetic Storm Watch and that is for all of Earth. Apart from G1 geomagnetic storm ranking for Sunday, it has said G2 conditions are likely on Monday. 

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