Double CME blow could spark G3 geomagnetic storm! Solar flare causes radio blackout over Pacific Ocean

The Sun has turned extremely volatile and two CMEs have been hurled towards Earth which could spark a strong G3 geomagnetic storm soon. Know the details of this solar event.

| Updated on: Aug 07 2023, 07:47 IST
Do all solar activities like solar storms, CME, impact Earth? This is what NASA says
1/5 Sun is a source of energy and a lot of activities keep on happening on the fireball. But can Earth be impacted by solar activities? Before we tell you that, it is important to know what solar activity is? According to NASA, solar flares, coronal mass ejections, high-speed solar wind, and solar energetic particles are all forms of solar activity. All solar activity is driven by the solar magnetic field. (NASA)
2/5 Solar flares impact Earth only when they occur on the side of the sun facing Earth. Because flares are made of photons, they travel out directly from the flare site, so if we can see the flare, we can be impacted by it. (Pixabay)
3/5 Coronal mass ejections, also called CMEs, are large clouds of plasma and magnetic field that erupt from the sun. These clouds can erupt in any direction, and then continue on in that direction, plowing right through the solar wind. Only when the cloud is aimed at Earth will the CME hit Earth and therefore cause impacts. (NASA)
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4/5 High-speed solar wind streams come from areas on the sun known as coronal holes. These holes can form anywhere on the sun and usually, only when they are closer to the solar equator, do the winds they produce impact Earth. (NASA)
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5/5 Solar energetic particles are high-energy charged particles, primarily thought to be released by shocks formed at the front of coronal mass ejections and solar flares. When a CME cloud plows through the solar wind, high velocity solar energetic particles can be produced and because they are charged, they must follow the magnetic field lines that pervade the space between the Sun and the Earth. Therefore, only the charged particles that follow magnetic field lines that intersect the Earth will result in impacts. (NASA)
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A G3-geomagnetic storm could be on the cards as NASA SDO captured CME blasting off from the Sun's surface. (NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory)

As we approach the solar maximum, which is the peak of the Sun's 11-year cycle, solar activity has been steadily increasing. Last month, Earth experienced a 20 nT jolt as a CME prematurely hit the planet. In March, we also experienced the worst solar storm in six years as a G4-class geomagnetic storm hit the planet on March 23, as Earth's "shields were down”. Forecasters have now warned that yet another double event could be on the horizon as two Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) have been observed being hurled towards Earth.

Risk of geomagnetic storm

According to a report by, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured the eruption of sunspot AR3386 on August 5 which produced a dangerous X1.6-class solar flare, along with a CME. Its Solar and Heliospheric Observatory also observed a bright CME escaping from the blast side. Moreover, a magnetic filament also produced another CME that was hurled towards Earth on the same day.

According to NASA, if one of these CMEs hit Earth tomorrow, August 8, it could result in a minor G1-class geomagnetic storm. G1-class geomagnetic storms are considered minor storms, and they generally don't cause a lot of damage. On the other hand, if both these CMEs strike Earth, the double blow could result in a moderate G2 or strong G3-class geomagnetic storm.

Solar flare causes radio blackout

The solar flare hurled out by the active sunspot AR3386 was of X 1.6 intensity. These flares can create radiation storms which have the potential to not only harm the satellites but also give small doses of radiation to the people flying in airplanes at the time! Moreover, these devastating flares can disrupt global communications and bring down the power grids to create blackouts.

A similar event occurred as this solar flare ionized the top of Earth's atmosphere. As a result, mariners and ham radio operators experienced loss of signal at frequencies below 30 MHz over the Pacific Ocean.

Space observatory monitoring the Sun

NASA has a full suite of instruments to measure solar activity that affects Earth. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory or SOHO is one of the premier instruments that is used by NASA and ESA. Launched in 1995, SOHO is equipped with 12 scientific instruments, such as an Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (EIT), Michelson Doppler Imager (MDI), LASCO (Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph), and others. SOHO captures images of the sun's corona, measures the velocity and magnetic fields of the sun's surface, and observes the faint corona around the sun.

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First Published Date: 07 Aug, 07:43 IST