CME

Sunspot Region 2205 Week Away From ‘Perfect Position To Do The Most Damage’ To Earth

Regular readers of Survival And Prosperity know I blog about severe space weather from time to time. Here’s something I came across on Bloomberg.com today that might interest a number of you. Brian Sullivan reported:

Those Sunspots Approaching Earth Could Bring Blackouts

A new group of sunspots that has come into view of Earth has the attention of the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center.

The area, referred to as 2205, spat out an x-ray flare that produced a moderate radio blackout today, according to the center’s website. Earlier this week, it let loose several coronal mass ejections, explosions of magnetic fields and plasma from the sun’s atmosphere that can knock out power grids and disrupt navigational systems.

Most of the material in today’s flare, along with the earlier eruptions, was pointed away from Earth, thus sparing the planet severe storms…

Here’s what really grabbed my attention though. Sullivan added:

The sunspots that are now becoming visible will take about two weeks to traverse the side of the sun pointed at the Earth, [Forecast Office Lead Robert] Rutledge said. In about a week, the system will be in perfect position to do the most damage, he said…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The potential economic costs associated with such solar storms are staggering. Consider this recent estimate from the FOX News website back in March:

“The cost of an extreme space weather event, if it hits Earth, could reach trillions of dollars with a potential recovery time of 4-10 years,” professor at China’s State Key Laboratory of Space Weather Ying D. Liu warned in a press release. “Therefore, it is paramount to the security and economic interest of the modern society to understand solar superstorms.”

Check out the entire article on Bloomberg.com here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

“The massive solar blast that almost wreaked havoc on Earth.” FOX News. 19 Mar. 2014. (http://www.foxnews.com/science/2014/03/19/massive-solar-blast-that-almost-wreaked-havoc-on-earth/?intcmp=features). 6 Nov. 2014.

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Latest On Strong Geomagnetic Storm Possibly Hitting Earth

Last night I blogged about the Sun unleashing an X-class solar flare in the direction of our planet, and the potential for a strong geomagnetic storm due to a “likely” coronal mass ejection (CME) accompanying the flare.

Here’s the latest from the NOAA/NWS Space Weather Prediction Center about the likelihood of severe space weather in the coming days. From their website this morning:

2014-09-11 05:01 UTC A Pair of CMEs

G2 (Moderate) geomagnetic storms remain in the forecast for September 12th as a result of the coronal mass ejection (CME) associated with the R1 (Minor) solar flare observed on the 9th. The latest WSA-Enlil model run has the CME associated with yesterday’s R3 (Strong) solar flare arriving mid to late day on that same day. A G3 (Strong) Geomagnetic Storm Watch has been issued for September 13th due to the combined influence of these two events with G1 (Minor) storming anticipated to continue into September 14th. In addition, the S1 (Minor) solar radiation storm that is in progress as a result of the eruption yesterday is expected to persist for the next few days. Keep in mind that the forecast periods listed are in Universal Time so aurora watchers in the northern U.S. should be looking for possible activity both Thursday and Friday nights. Stay tuned for updates…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Okay, so the SWPC is predicting “G2 (Moderate) geomagnetic storms” for Friday, September 12, and issuing a “G3 (Strong) Geomagnetic Storm Watch” for Saturday, September 13.

According to the “NOAA Space Weather Scales” web page under “NOAA Space Weather Scale for Geomagnetic Storms,” G2 (“Moderate”) storms are characterized by the following:

Power systems: high-latitude power systems may experience voltage alarms, long-duration storms may cause transformer damage.

Spacecraft operations: corrective actions to orientation may be required by ground control; possible changes in drag affect orbit predictions.

Other systems: HF radio propagation can fade at higher latitudes, and aurora has been seen as low as New York and Idaho (typically 55° geomagnetic lat.)**.

As for G3 (“Strong”) geomagnetic storms:

Power systems: voltage corrections may be required, false alarms triggered on some protection devices.

Spacecraft operations: surface charging may occur on satellite components, drag may increase on low-Earth-orbit satellites, and corrections may be needed for orientation problems.

Other systems: intermittent satellite navigation and low-frequency radio navigation problems may occur, HF radio may be intermittent, and aurora has been seen as low as Illinois and Oregon (typically 50° geomagnetic lat.)**.

The damage from a G2 or G3 geomagnetic storm doesn’t appear to be too significant. G4 (“Severe”) geomagnetic storm events look like the ones we should be worried about:

Power systems: possible widespread voltage control problems and some protective systems will mistakenly trip out key assets from the grid…

The folks over at the Space Weather Prediction Center seem to think electrical grids aren’t in any real danger from this latest bout of severe space weather. Doyle Rice reported on the USA Today website this morning:

Major disruptions are not expected, even though the flare was classified as an “X-class” flare, which is at the high end of the solar flare scale. Wednesday’s flare followed a weaker flare late Monday.

“We expect geomagnetic storm levels in the G2 (moderate) and G3 (strong) range,” said NOAA space weather forecaster Bill Murtagh.

“G2-G3 geomagnetic storms can cause some problems for the (power) grid but are typically very manageable,” Murtagh said in an e-mail Thursday morning. “We may also see some anomalies with satellites so satellite operators around the world have been notified. And problems with the accuracy of GPS have been observed with this level of storming.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Rice added later:

The worst of the energetic particles streaming from the sun likely will miss Earth this time…

Did the Earth just “dodge a bullet” from the Sun? Guess we’ll know for sure after the weekend.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Rice, Doyle. “Solar storm heading for Earth.” USA Today. 11 Sep. 2014. (http://www.usatoday.com/story/weather/2014/09/10/solar-flare-space-weather/15415827/). 11 Sep. 2014.

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Strong Geomagnetic Storm To Hit Earth In Coming Days?

Survival And Prosperity readers across the world- Earth was in the crosshairs of a powerful X-class solar flare earlier today. USA Today’s Doyle Rice reported this evening:

A solar flare that launched off the sun Wednesday afternoon could wreak havoc with communications systems and power systems on the Earth, as well as with satellites in orbit, in coming days.

Forecasters with NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center said the flare already “caused impacts to high-frequency radio communications on Earth today,” according to NOAA. “A coronal mass ejection (CME) associated with this event is likely, but further analysis is necessary to determine whether it will produce geomagnetic storming on Earth.”…

If a CME occurred, Earth’s magnetosphere will likely be disturbed and a geomagnetic storm could result in the next few days, NOAA reports…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Rice added:

Space weather forecaster Bill Murtagh said that scientists will know more about when and where the impacts will be when more data comes in later Wednesday and early Thursday…

I visited the Space Weather Prediction Center website, and here’s their latest on the event:

2014-09-10 23:18 UTC Recent R3 Solar Flare

Active Region 2158, now near center disk, produced a X1 (NOAA Scale R3 – Strong) solar flare today at 10/1745 UTC (Sep 10th at 01:45pm EDT). Impacts to HF radio communications on the daylight side of Earth lasted for a little more than an hour.

Initial information suggests that CME is likely associated with this event, however, further analysis is underway at this time…

Standby for more details.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Now, regular blog readers might remember the TESIS Geomagnetic Activity Forecast I named “Resource Of The Week” back on August 24, 2013. In their “3-day forecast of solar activity,” the Russians are predicting a 1 percent “probability of a strong magnetic storm” Thursday, a 20 percent probability of a strong magnetic storm Friday, and a 5 percent probability Saturday.

Time and time again I’ve blogged about the threat from severe space weather. This latest bout has the potential to be real bad according to what I’ve been reading.

I plan on checking back with the Space Weather Prediction Center (website) later tonight or tomorrow if necessary to find out the results of their “further analysis.”

I suggest you might want to do the same.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Rice, Doyle. “Solar Storm Heading for Earth.” WLTX19.com. 10 Sep. 2014. (http://www.wltx.com/story/tech/science/2014/09/10/solar-storm-heading-for-earth/15418653/). 10 Sep. 2014.

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July 2012, 2013 Solar Superstorms Could Have Resulted In Technological Disasters On Earth

Back on December 11, 2013, I blogged about a solar “superstorm” that almost pummeled the Earth in July 2012. A December 9 press release from University of Colorado-Boulder Professor Daniel Baker, a solar scientist and the director of CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, said:

A massive ejection of material from the sun initially traveling at over 7 million miles per hour that narrowly missed Earth last year is an event solar scientists hope will open the eyes of policymakers regarding the impacts and mitigation of severe space weather, says a University of Colorado Boulder professor.

The coronal mass ejection, or CME, event was likely more powerful than the famous Carrington storm of 1859, when the sun blasted Earth’s atmosphere hard enough twice to light up the sky from the North Pole to Central America and allowed New Englanders to read their newspapers at night by aurora light, said CU-Boulder Professor Daniel Baker. Had it hit Earth, the July 2012 event likely would have created a technological disaster by short-circuiting satellites, power grids, ground communication equipment and even threatening the health of astronauts and aircraft crews, he said

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Well, there’s been more analysis of that July 2012 CME event recently. From the FOX News website yesterday:

Earth dodged one of the most massive magnetic solar bursts ever on July 23, 2012, scientists with the University of California, Berkeley revealed on Wednesday — saving the planet from widespread havoc.

“Had it hit Earth, it probably would have been like the big one in 1859, but the effect today, with our modern technologies, would have been tremendous,” UC Berkeley research physicist Janet G. Luhmann said in a press release.

The 2012 massive magnetic cloud sped through space at over 1,200 miles per second, four times faster than a typical burst of solar power.

According to researchers, had the quick succession of coronal mass ejections (CMEs)– the most intense kind of solar eruptions — come nine days earlier, they would have hit Earth, potentially disabled satellites and GPS, and even affected the electrical grid.

A study from last year revealed that a solar storm like the one Earth narrowly avoided could have cost up to $2.6 trillion in damages. A similar event in March 1989 caused Canada’s Hydro-Quebec power grid to collapse and left six million people with no electricity for nine hours.

“The cost of an extreme space weather event, if it hits Earth, could reach trillions of dollars with a potential recovery time of 4-10 years,” professor at China’s State Key Laboratory of Space Weather Ying D. Liu warned in a press release. “Therefore, it is paramount to the security and economic interest of the modern society to understand solar superstorms.”

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Another potential technological disaster was narrowly avoided just a year later in July 2013. I wrote on August 1:

Here’s something you probably won’t hear in the mainstream media:

The Earth just missed being hit by a coronal mass ejection two weeks ago

Paul Bedard reported in the “Washington Secrets” section of the Washington Examiner website last night:

The earth barely missed taking a massive solar punch in the teeth two weeks ago, an “electromagnetic pulse” so big that it could have knocked out power, cars and iPhones throughout the United States.

Two EMP experts told Secrets that the EMP flashed through earth’s typical orbit around the sun about two weeks before the planet got there.

“The world escaped an EMP catastrophe,” said Henry Cooper, who led strategic arms negotiations with the Soviet Union under President Reagan, and who now heads High Frontier, a group pushing for missile defense.

“There had been a near miss about two weeks ago, a Carrington-class coronal mass ejection crossed the orbit of the Earth and basically just missed us,” said Peter Vincent Pry, who served on the Congressional EMP Threat Commission from 2001-2008. He was referring to the 1859 EMP named after astronomer Richard Carrington that melted telegraph lines in Europe and North America.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

I’m guessing solar superstorms don’t really register that much on the radar of most Americans. However, seeing how technologically dependent our society is these days, the potential effects of coronal mass ejections worry me considerably, and have so for some time.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

“The massive solar blast that almost wreaked havoc on Earth.” FOX News. 19 Mar. 2014. (http://www.foxnews.com/science/2014/03/19/massive-solar-blast-that-almost-wreaked-havoc-on-earth/?intcmp=features). 20 Mar. 2014.

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Attack On California Power Substation Just A ‘Dress Rehearsal’?

Speaking of the fragile U.S. power grid this morning, I’ve been itching to discuss the following incident that took place in April and which I’ve been hearing more about as time goes on. Shane Harris reported on the Foreign Policy website back on December 27:

Around 1:00 AM on April 16, at least one individual (possibly two) entered two different manholes at the PG&E Metcalf power substation, southeast of San Jose, and cut fiber cables in the area around the substation. That knocked out some local 911 services, landline service to the substation, and cell phone service in the area, a senior U.S. intelligence official told Foreign Policy. The intruder(s) then fired more than 100 rounds from what two officials described as a high-powered rifle at several transformers in the facility. Ten transformers were damaged in one area of the facility, and three transformer banks — or groups of transformers — were hit in another, according to a PG&E spokesman.

Cooling oil then leaked from a transformer bank, causing the transformers to overheat and shut down. State regulators urged customers in the area to conserve energy over the following days, but there was no long-term damage reported at the facility and there were no major power outages. There were no injuries reported. That was the good news. The bad news is that officials don’t know who the shooter(s) were, and most importantly, whether further attacks are planned.

“Initially, the attack was being treated as vandalism and handled by local law enforcement,” the senior intelligence official said. “However, investigators have been quoted in the press expressing opinions that there are indications that the timing of the attacks and target selection indicate a higher level of planning and sophistication.”


Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office
“PG&E Substation Surveillance Video”
(Sparks from bullets @ 1:54, 2:07, 2:10, 2:57, and 3:01)
YouTube Video

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is now in charge of the case. Even though the shooting took place one day after the Boston Marathon bombing, Harris wrote the FBI “has no evidence that the attack is related to terrorism, and it appears to be an isolated incident.”

However, there’s this later on in the piece:

“These were not amateurs taking potshots,” Mark Johnson, a former vice president for transmission operations at PG&E, said last month at a conference on grid security held in Philadelphia. “My personal view is that this was a dress rehearsal” for future attacks.

Wackjob(s)? Terrorist(s)? The authorities may never find out just who was behind the attack. But I can only imagine if this had taken place in the Chicago area during a brutal cold spell like the one we’re in now.

Should a similar attack be successful here in Chiberia-like conditions and the region plunged into an extensive and extended power outage, chaos and carnage could easily ensue.

Extreme weather (space weather included). Cyber attacks. Physical attack. I wished Washington would take steps to significantly harden the national power grid. But they won’t any time soon (other spending priorities, no immediate/substantial political “return” from doing so).

Regrettably, the bad guys have almost certainly figured this out as well.

Yep. Alternative/backup electricity and heating is starting to sound real good right now.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Harris, Shane. “‘Military-Style’ Raid on California Power Station Spooks U.S.” Foreign Policy. 27 Dec. 2013. (http://complex.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/12/24/power-station-military-assault), 8 Jan 2014.

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Solar Scientist: July 2012 Coronal Mass Ejection And 1859 Carrington Event Show Need To Prepare

Here’s a press release that should concern every adult American. From University of Colorado-Boulder Professor Daniel Baker, a solar scientist and the director of CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, on Monday:

CU-Boulder scientist: 2012 solar storm points up need for society to prepare

A massive ejection of material from the sun initially traveling at over 7 million miles per hour that narrowly missed Earth last year is an event solar scientists hope will open the eyes of policymakers regarding the impacts and mitigation of severe space weather, says a University of Colorado Boulder professor.

The coronal mass ejection, or CME, event was likely more powerful than the famous Carrington storm of 1859, when the sun blasted Earth’s atmosphere hard enough twice to light up the sky from the North Pole to Central America and allowed New Englanders to read their newspapers at night by aurora light, said CU-Boulder Professor Daniel Baker. Had it hit Earth, the July 2012 event likely would have created a technological disaster by short-circuiting satellites, power grids, ground communication equipment and even threatening the health of astronauts and aircraft crews, he said.

CMEs are part of solar storms and can send billions of tons of solar particles in the form of gas bubbles and magnetic fields off the sun’s surface and into space. The storm events essentially peel Earth’s magnetic field like an onion, allowing energetic solar wind particles to stream down the field lines to hit the atmosphere over the poles.

Fortunately, the 2012 solar explosion occurred on the far side of the rotating sun just a week after that area was pointed toward Earth, said Baker, a solar scientist and the director of CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. But NASA’s STEREO-A, satellite that was flying ahead of the Earth as the planet orbited the sun, captured the event, including the intensity of the solar wind, the interplanetary magnetic field and a rain of solar energetic particles into space.

“My space weather colleagues believe that until we have an event that slams Earth and causes complete mayhem, policymakers are not going to pay attention,” he said. “The message we are trying to convey is that we made direct measurements of the 2012 event and saw the full consequences without going through a direct hit on our planet.”

Baker will give a presentation on the subject at the 46th Annual Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union held in San Francisco Dec. 9 to Dec. 13.

While typical coronal mass ejections from the sun take two or three days to reach Earth, the 2012 event traveled from the sun’s surface to Earth in just 18 hours. “The speed of this event was as fast or faster than anything that has been seen in the modern space age,” said Baker. The event not only had the most powerful CME ever recorded, but it would have triggered one of the strongest geomagnetic storms and the highest density of particle fluctuation ever seen in a typical solar cycle, which last roughly 11 years.

“We have proposed that the 2012 event be adopted as the best estimate of the worst case space weather scenario,” said Baker, who chaired a 2008 National Research Council committee that produced a report titled Severe Space Weather Events – Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts. “We argue that this extreme event should be immediately employed by the space weather community to model severe space weather effects on technological systems such as the electrical power grid.

“I liken it to war games — since we have the information about the event, let’s play it through our various models and see what happens,” Baker said. “If we do this, we would be a significant step closer to providing policymakers with real-world, concrete kinds of information that can be used to explore what would happen to various technologies on Earth and in orbit rather than waiting to be clobbered by a direct hit.”

Even though it occurred about 150 years ago, the Carrington storm was memorable from a natural beauty standpoint as well as its technological impacts, he said. The event disrupted telegraph communications — the Internet of the Victorian Age — around the world, sparking fires at telegraph offices that caused several deaths, he said.

A 1989 geomagnetic storm caused by a CME from a solar storm in March 1989 resulted in the collapse of Hydro-Quebec’s electricity transmission system, causing 6 million people to lose power for at least nine hours, said Baker. The auroras from the event could be seen as far south as Texas and Florida.

“The Carrington storm and the 2012 event show that extreme space weather events can happen even during a modest solar cycle like the one presently underway,” said Baker. “Rather than wait and pick up the pieces, we ought to take lessons from these events to prepare ourselves for inevitable future solar storms.”

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Sobering stuff. You can read the entire press release on the CU-Boulder website here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Sun Fires Off 24 M-Class And 4 Powerful X-Class Solar Flares Since October 23

Whoa! The Sun is really acting up these days. Last Monday, I blogged about the Sun emitting a third X-Class solar flare in three days, with an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection to boot. And just yesterday, the Daily Mail (UK) reported two dozen M-Class and four X-Class flares have been fired off since October 23. From the British newspaper’s website:

More than two dozen solar flares have erupted from the Sun in the past seven days, catapulting radiation towards the Earth that could potentially play havoc with global communications.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued four radio blackout warnings in the past two days after solar weather suddenly turned turbulent…

Since October 23 the Sun has let loose with 24 medium-strength M-class solar flares, and four X-class flares – the most powerful kind…

The recent solar flare activity has also been accompanied by several coronal mass ejections (CMEs), say Nasa officials.

Coronal mass ejections are worrisome and strong ones pose a threat to satellite communications and electrical grids. I blogged about the phenomena all the way back in August 2011. And on August 1, 2013, I noted how a Carrington-class CME recently crossed the Earth’s orbit, narrowly missing us.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

“Sun sends 28 solar flares erupting through space in a week… and there may be more on the way.” Daily Mail. 2 Nov. 2013. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2484851/Sun-sends-28-solar-flares-erupting-space-week–way.html). 3 Nov. 2013.

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