A geomagnetic storm is due to strike the planet and can disrupt power and satellites. The spatial surveillance organization of the American Government has cautioned the public that a geomagnetic storm may occur instead of a solar storm. The solar wind causes this phenomenon and is expected to trigger an aurora.
A Geomagnetic Storm Watch was issued by NOAA for today, September 26. The spacial weather American surveillance organization has initially warned the public that a geomagnetic storm at the G1 or G2 category might occur. Now, one of their updates warns us that a G2 storm is expected on Monday.
What is a geomagnetic storm?
A geomagnetic storm is a disturbance of the Earth’s magnetic field caused by bursts of solar wind. The magnetosphere, the protective bubble that surrounds the Earth, contains the magnetic field of the Earth and is affected by the solar wind. This wind is driven by the sun, but in addition to being charged particles, it is also composed of relatively cool gas. As the gas gets closer to the sun, it heats up, and the charged particles accelerate, which causes the solar wind to swell. The magnetosphere is pushed outward by the solar wind. The magnetic field lines can twist, and the magnetic field itself can weaken.
When the magnetic field weakens, charged particles from the sun can more easily enter the magnetosphere. When they do, they interact with the magnetic fields and knock out electrons, which collide with other particles and give off radiation, making their way into the Earth’s atmosphere. The influx of particles causes effects in the magnetosphere that can range from minor to extreme.
Minor effects include radiation belts in the upper atmosphere, auroras, and radio blackouts. Extreme effects include auroras, “stormy” geomagnetic conditions, and disruptions to the power grid and satellite communications.
The effects of solar wind cannot be predicted, but it is possible to estimate how strong the storm will be. Several government agencies and private companies maintain forecasts of solar wind based on observations recorded by their satellites and ground-based observatories. These forecasts cover 24 hours and indicate the strength of the solar wind. The strongest solar wind events are called geomagnetic storms. Geomagnetic storms have been observed since ancient times, but in modern times, they have become increasingly common.