Earth will get under 20 min solar storm warning before it hits power grid

The world may have as little as 20 minutes to prepare for a solar storm.

| Updated on: Jul 03 2023, 10:05 IST
6 TERRIFYING solar storms that blasted Earth in 2022
Solar storm
1/6 On June 29, a surprise solar storm struck the Earth. The solar storm was not caused by coronal mass ejections (CME) but by a corotating interaction region (CIR), which opened a hole in the Earth's magnetosphere. It was a G1-class solar storm which is capable of causing shortwave radio blackouts and GPS disruptions. Interestingly, it coincided with the rare five planet alignment event.  (NASA)
Solar storm
2/6 Extremely rare pink auroras could be seen on November 3 near Greenland, after a G1-class solar storm slammed into the Earth. Solar storms usually give a greenish hue due to ionizing of Oxygen atoms. However, the CME in this case was able to reach the lower strata of the atmosphere which ionized Nitrogen atoms and gave off the rare pink aura.  (Representative Photo) (Pixabay)
Solar storm
3/6 On November 6, a powerful solar flare which was estimated to be an X-class solar flare caused temporary radio blackouts in Australia and New Zealand. The resultant solar storm blocked all high frequency radio waves making it hard for various emergency services and airlines that use radio communications to operate for multiple hours.  (Pixabay)
Solar storm
4/6 On August 7 and 8, a mysterious phenomenon was seen after a solar storm strike which scientists call STEVE (strong thermal emission velocity enhancement). A gigantic ribbon of purple light followed by a wave of green light could be seen in many parts of North America.   (@KaniskiDylan / Twitter)
Solar storm
5/6 A rare double solar storm attack was seen on March 14 when a G2-class solar storm was quickly followed up with another G1-class solar storm. Scientists believe that such multiple solar storm attacks are going to be more frequent in coming days as the Sun reaches the peak of its solar cycle. (Pixabay)
Solar storm
6/6 On October 25, the Sun seemed to beam a smile at Earth even as it spewed a stream of dangerous solar particles towards our planet. Multiple dark regions popped up on the Sun that gave an uncanny impression of a smiley face. The resultant solar storm from the event was noted to be a G2-class which is so strong that it is capable of causing fluctuations in electricity grids on Earth.  (SDO/AIA)
Solar storm
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Solar storms pose imminent threat to power grids with just twenty minutes warning. (Pixabay)

The world may have as little as 20 minutes to prepare for a solar storm that could severely impact power grids, it has been revealed. With solar activity expected to reach its peak in 2025, Earth's energy grids may not be adequately equipped to handle the consequences, The National News reported.

The powerful bursts of energy emitted by the Sun during solar storms have the potential to cause physical damage and trigger magnetic storms that disrupt systems on the ground. Unfortunately, long-range forecasting in this field is currently inadequate, according to an official from the UK's Met Office, which is responsible for predicting space weather.

While short-term forecasts are relatively accurate, predicting events over a longer timeframe proves challenging.

Solar storms can also harm satellites, leading to disruptions in broadcasting and navigation on Earth. In the past, a large solar flare in 2003 affected air travel in the UK and caused power outages in Sweden. Although the UK's national risk register categorises solar storms as a medium-grade threat, the previous solar cycle passed without any major incidents. In 2012, a significant flare narrowly missed the planet.

As the Sun's 11-year cycle nears its "solar maximum" once again, eruptions of energy are becoming more frequent. Just last week, NASA reported a powerful solar flare. Some solar flares release radiation that travels at the speed of light, making it impossible to observe and forecast their arrival. Instead, experts can estimate their probability.

A massive eruption of plasma called a coronal mass ejection takes longer to reach Earth but can disturb its magnetic field. Spacecraft positioned about 1.5 million kilometers away from Earth, at a point known as Lagrange 1, can detect an approaching storm. However, until last-minute measurements are obtained, the scale of impact remains uncertain.

Matthew Hofton from the National Grid ESO, the electricity system operator, revealed that a severe solar storm could damage up to 20 transformers. In the event of a one-in-50-year storm, power cuts could occur, while a once-in-a-century event could result in parts of the network being disconnected for weeks. Additionally, high-voltage interconnector cables that connect electricity grids between countries are also at risk, quoted by The National News.

Although a catastrophic long-term hit is deemed unlikely, concerns persist regarding the untested equipment's ability to withstand a major geomagnetic storm.

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First Published Date: 03 Jul, 09:47 IST