Geomagnetic storms may be predicted days in advance, says study

Geomagnetic storms could be predicted days in advance, giving people time for preparation, according to a recent study.

| Updated on: Jan 26 2023, 16:56 IST
Do all solar activities like solar storms, CME, impact Earth? This is what NASA says
Solar flare
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)
Solar flare
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)
Solar Flare
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)
Geomagnetic storm
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Geomagnetic storms cause effects such as Northern lights, power blackouts and more. (REUTERS)

The Sun has been in the middle of its solar cycle, which has led to high solar activity. As a result, sunspot eruptions, solar storms, solar flares and more, have all plagued Earth for the past months. Although this solar activity might seem harmless due to the distance of the Sun from our planet, they can cause major damage. At the moment, there is a very short window between when the geomagnetic storm alert gets issued and when it hits.

However, it could soon change, courtesy of an amazing research done by scientists. According to, scientists at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, in collaboration with expert from the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics, the University of Graz & the Kanzelhöhe Observatory, the University of Zagreb and Zagreb Astronomical Observatory, have developed a way to predict geomagnetic storms by directly observing the Sun.

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. The time taken by solar wind to reach Earth takes anywhere between 1 and 7 days. However as of now, the magnetic interplanetary perturbation of the wind cannot be determined from solar observations, therefore forecasting a geomagnetic storm days before is nearly impossible.

Scientists involved in the study observed data from the coronal holes on the Sun and were successful in their effort of geomagnetic storm forecasting. This could be a major achievement as it could increase the prediction time from hours to days in advance.

Simona Nitti, a Skoltech MSc graduate and the first author of the study said, “We showed that the magnetic field from a coronal hole propagating from sun to Earth is preserved in more than 80% of the cases. This opens a possibility to use the magnetic field derived from solar observations instead of that at L1. Additionally, to improve the predictions, we incorporated into the forecasting model of the geomagnetic activity the seasonal variations of the southward component of the interplanetary magnetic field.”

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First Published Date: 26 Jan, 16:31 IST