Geomagnetic storms: Everything you wanted to know about this solar phenomenon in brief | Tech News

Geomagnetic storms: Everything you wanted to know about this solar phenomenon in brief

Geomagnetic storms can wreak havoc on Earth as they have the power to destroy all the communications and electrical infrastructure on Earth and even the satellites up in the sky. But do you know what these storms are?

| Updated on: Jun 22 2023, 17:37 IST
Solar Flare explosion may cause Geomagnetic storms on Earth
1/5 The report stated “Something just exploded on the sun's north-eastern part. On July 31st at 2309 UT, Earth-orbiting satellites registered a long-lasting C9.3-class solar flare; the intensity is probably an underestimate because it was partially eclipsed.” (NASA)
2/5 According to the report, debris flying away from the blast site on the Sun was observed by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). “The explosion is significant because it may herald an active region set to emerge over the sun's north-eastern part later this week. A new sunspot group could bring an end to weeks of relative quiet,” the report further added. (NASA SDO)
3/5 Although Earth was not directly in the line of fire, the solar flares which hurled towards Earth may cause the emergence of Geomagnetic storms. According to NASA, a geomagnetic storm is a major disturbance of Earth's magnetosphere which occurs when there is a strong exchange of energy from the solar wind in the space above Earth. (REUTERS)
4/5 According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) researchers, there is a chance of a minor G1-class geomagnetic storm on August 3. As per the K-index, which measures the magnetic field around the Earth, solar storms are divided into 5 classes from G-1 to G-5. The G-1 is the lowest impact Geomagnetic storm whereas G-5 is assigned to the most severe storms. (NASA)
5/5 The frequency of solar flares is set to increase in the coming years as the Sun reaches the peak of its solar cycle, likely to be around 2025. This will not only increase the frequency of solar flares and solar storms, but could also potentially Earth systems like power grid and GPS. (NASA)
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Amazingly, geomagnetic storms can also cause stunning auroras in the sky. (Unsplash)

Geomagnetic storms can wreak havoc on Earth as they have the power to destroy all the communications and electrical infrastructure on Earth and even the satellites up in the sky. And Earth has been, and is being, continuously bombarded by Geomagnetic storms, and not a single week has gone by without one incident of solar particles hitting our atmosphere recently. In fact, the year 2023 has been an eventful year for astronomers and skywatchers and you too should know what these storms are all about.

So, do you know what geomagnetic storms are? Or how powerful they are? Here's all you need to know about these storms that have the potential to send us to the Dark Ages.

What are Geomagnetic storms?

Disturbances in the Earth's magnetic field that occur when the planet's magnetic field interacts with charged particles thrown out by the sun are known as Geomagnetic Storms. These storms are caused by solar activity such as solar flares, Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), and more that send a burst of charged particles towards the Earth. Although this solar activity might seem harmless due to the distance of the Sun from our planet, it can cause major damage.

How does a Geomagnetic storm affect the planet?

While Earth's magnetosphere deflects most solar activity carried by the solar wind, some charged particles seep through. These energetic particles cause magnetic disturbances, classified as either geomagnetic storms or substorms.

When solar particles hit Earth, radio communications and the power grid are affected when it hits the planet's magnetic field. It can cause power and radio blackouts for several hours or even days. However, electricity grid problems occur only if the solar flare is extremely powerful. Geomagnetic storms are also the reason behind stunning streaks of green light across the sky known as Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis.

What if a strong Geomagnetic storm impacts Earth?

Although some of the Sunspots on the solar surface never even explode, it is important to know the potential impact of such an intense explosion of solar matter. G5-class Geomagnetic storms are the most potent geomagnetic events ever observed. These storms have the potential to disrupt all forms of wireless communication, including GPS, mobile networks, and satellite communication. These storms can even cause damage to ground-based infrastructure by harming repeaters in under-sea internet cables and blocking internet connectivity. Power grids are also susceptible to fluctuations and could potentially sustain irreversible damage.

G5-class Geomagnetic storms can even burn down small satellites in the lower Earth orbit and damage sensitive instruments of the ones in the higher orbits. High voltage flux in the atmosphere could also result in electronics suffering heavy damage. In short, a strong enough Geomagnetic storm can send us to the Dark Ages in an instant.

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First Published Date: 22 Jun, 17:24 IST