X-class solar flares

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)


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)


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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Sun Fires Off More ‘X-Class’ Solar Flares

The Sun keeps churning out big solar flares these days. Karen C. Fox from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Space Flight Center reported on the NASA website earlier today:

The sun emitted a significant solar flare that peaked at 1:14 a.m. EST on Nov. 10, 2013. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.

This flare is classified as an X1.1 class flare. “X-class” denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc.

Increased numbers of flares are quite common at the moment, since the sun’s normal 11-year activity cycle is ramping up toward solar maximum conditions…

This is the seventh significant flare since Oct. 23, 2013, with the largest being an X3.3 on Nov. 5, 2013.

I’m not too concerned about solar flares as I am coronal mass ejections, or CMEs. Ms. Fox pointed out back in a May 13 piece on the NASA website:

Solar flares can temporarily alter the upper atmosphere creating disruptions with signal transmission from, say, a GPS satellite to Earth causing it to be off by many yards. Another phenomenon produced by the sun could be even more disruptive. Known as a coronal mass ejection or CME these solar explosions propel bursts of particles and electromagnetic fluctuations into Earth’s atmosphere. Those fluctuations could induce electric fluctuations at ground level that could blow out transformers in power grids. A CME’s particles can also collide with crucial electronics onboard a satellite and disrupt its systems.

Fried electrical grids. Not good.

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


Fox, Karen C. “Veteran’s Day Solar Flare.” NASA. 10 Nov. 2013. (http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/2013-Veterans-day-solar-flare/#.UoBMpeL4LS0http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/2013-Veterans-day-solar-flare/#.UoBMpeL4LS0). 10 Nov. 2013.

Fox, Karen C. “Impacts of Strong Solar Flares.” NASA. 13 May 2013. (http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/flare-impacts.html). 10 Nov. 2013.


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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)


“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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Sun Emits Third X-Class Solar Flare In 3 Days With Coronal Mass Ejection Heading Towards Earth

Back on September 23, The New York Times ran a piece entitled, “The Sun That Did Not Roar.” Kenneth Chang wrote:

This is the height of the 11-year solar cycle, the so-called solar maximum. The face of the Sun should be pockmarked with sunspots, and cataclysmic explosions of X-rays and particles should be whizzing off every which way.

Instead, the Sun has been tranquil, almost spotless.

Go figure that after this article was published, activity started picking up on the Sun as solar max arrived in Solar Cycle 24.

Over the last three days, the Sun has fired off three X-class solar flares, with a coronal mass ejection scheduled to reach the Earth by Wednesday, October 30. Tariq Malik, Managing Editor of SPACE.com, wrote before lunchtime today:

The sun has just unleashed another major solar flare, the third of its kind in three days, scientists say.

The huge solar storm occurred late Sunday at 10:03 p.m. EDT (0203 Oct. 28 GMT). It registered as an X-class solar flare — the most powerful type of flare the sun has — and followed two back-to-back X-flares that erupted from the sun on Friday (Oct. 25)…

This latest solar flare erupted from an active sunspot region called AR1875 and triggered a strong radio blackout when it occurred, officials with the NOAA-run Space Weather Prediction Group explained in a status update. The flare also coincided with a massive explosion of super-hot solar plasma — called a coronal mass ejection, or CME — which should reach Earth by Oct. 30 and could trigger minor geomagnetic storms in the planet’s magnetic field, they added.

Severe geomagnetic storms can cause disruptions in satellite communications and power grids, as well as pose a risk to astronauts in space, but the storm levels from this latest major flare should not be that extreme.

TESIS, a geomagnetic activity forecasting resource that I blogged about back on August 24, currently reports that there’s only a 1 percent “probability of a strong magnetic storm” hitting the Earth tomorrow and Wednesday.

Sounds real good to me.

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s been estimated that a severe solar storm could cause $1 to $2 trillion in losses the first year, and take 4 to 10 years to fully recover from.

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


Chang, Kenneth. “The Sun That Did Not Roar.” The New York Times. 23 Sep. 2013. (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/24/science/space/the-sun-that-did-not-roar.html?_r=1&) 28 Oct. 2013.

Malik, Tariq. “Active Sun Fires Off 3rd Huge Solar Flare in 3 Days (Video).” SPACE.com. 28 Oct. 2013. (http://www.space.com/23353-sun-fires-off-huge-solar-flares-video.html). 28 Oct. 2013.


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Solar Flares Could Be Directed At Earth Over The Next Week

On Tuesday, I blogged about the recent surge in strong solar flares popping-up on the Sun. Luckily, those X-class flares were not Earth-directed. If they were, well, things could have gotten ugly on the “third rock from the Sun” if those flares had been accompanied by a coronal mass ejection, or CME. From an August 16, 2011, post:

The real danger comes when a solar storm ejects a chunk of the corona — the sun’s outermost layer — toward the Earth. It hurtles through space as a huge electrically charged cloud with its own magnetic field. Scientists call it a “coronal mass ejection.”

With an Earth-bound CME, magnetic storms here on Earth could cause electric surges that fry electrical systems and hardware.

Lights out.

Well, the Japanese are now warning about the potential for new solar flares to be directed at the Earth in the coming days. From Jay Alabaster on the PCWorld website Thursday morning:

A Japanese government institute has warned that satellite transmissions, GPS readings, and power lines could be affected over the next two weeks if a recent spate of solar flares continues.

Four large solar flares have been detected over the last few days, including one on Tuesday that was the largest of the year. The flares were judged to be “X-class” by NASA and other agencies, the highest in a linear scale based on X-ray measurements.

Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, or NICT, said the flares came from a group of sunspots that are pointed away from the Earth, but are due to rotate to face in the Earth’s direction over the next week. NICT said that if more major flares occur during that time, there could be problems for satellites and other equipment.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Hopefully, no coronal mass ejections will be heading our way along with one of these flares. Or any other time, for that matter.

It’s been estimated that a severe solar storm could cause $1 trillion to $2 trillion in losses the first year, and take 4 to 10 years to fully recover from.

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


Alabaster, Jay. “Japan warns solar flares could harm GPS, satellites, power lines.” PCWorld. 16 May 2013. (http://www.pcworld.com/article/2038887/japan-warns-solar-flares-could-harm-gps-satellites-power-lines.html). 17 May 2013.


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3 Powerful X-Class Flares Erupt From Sun In Last 24 Hours

“Solar flares are giant explosions on the Sun that send energy, light and high speed particles into space. These flares are often associated with CMEs. The number of solar flares increases approximately every 11 years, and the Sun is currently moving towards another solar maximum, likely in 2013… The biggest flares are known as “X-class flares” based on a classification system that divides solar flares according to their strength… If they’re directed at Earth, such flares and associated CMEs can create long lasting radiation storms that can harm satellites, communications systems and even ground-based technologies and power grids.”

-Mark Paquette, in his Astronomy Blog on AccuWeather.com, August 10, 2011

A number of strong solar flares have been popping-off on the Sun in the last 24 hours. From the website of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA):

Original Story: May 13

On May 12, 2013, the sun emitted a significant solar flare, peaking at 10 p.m. EDT. This flare is classified as an X1.7, making it the first X-class flare of 2013. The flare was also associated with another solar phenomenon, called a coronal mass ejection (CME) that can send solar material out into space. This CME was not Earth-directed.

First Update: May 13, 1:30 p.m. EDT

On May 13, 2013, the sun emitted an X2.8-class flare, peaking at 12:05 p.m. EDT. This is the the strongest X-class flare of 2013 so far, surpassing in strength the X1.7-class flare that occurred 14 hours earlier. It is the 16th X-class flare of the current solar cycle and the third-largest flare of that cycle.

Second Update: May 13, 3:30 p.m. EDT

The X2.8-class flare was also associated with a coronal mass ejection, or CME, another solar phenomenon that can send billions of tons of solar particles into space, which can potentially affect electronic systems in satellites and on the ground. The CME was not Earth-directed.

Third Update: May 14, 9 a.m. EDT

The sun emitted a third significant solar flare in under 24 hours, peaking at 9:11 p.m. EDT on May 13, 2013. This flare is classified as an X3.2 flare. This is the strongest X-class flare of 2013 so far, surpassing in strength the two X-class flares that occurred earlier in the 24-hour period.

The flare was also associated with a coronal mass ejection, or CME. The CME began at 9:30 p.m. EDT and was not Earth-directed.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

I first blogged about solar flares and CMEs- and the potential dangers associated with them- back in August 2011.

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


“Three X-class Flares in 24 Hours.” NASA. 14 May 2013. (http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/News051213-flare.html). 14 May 2013.


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