What is solar or geomagnetic storm and what are the possible consequences


By John

Earth is experiencing its first “extreme” (level 5 on a scale of 5) geomagnetic storm since 2003, according to the NOAA-National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's U.S. Weather Prediction Center. «Extreme conditions (G5) reached the Earth at 18.54 EDT», the American agency said on X. «It is likely that geomagnetic storms will persist throughout the weekend».

GPS, power grids, spacecraft, satellites and other technologies could be affected, according to the US agency. Several coronal mass ejections — waves of solar plasma emitted by the sun earlier this week — are transiting Earth.
The last similar event to reach level 5 was in October 2003; what were called 'Halloween storms' caused power outages in Sweden and damage to transformers in South Africa.
These solar storms also generate impressive aurora borealis, sometimes far to the south of the regions where they are usually observed. They have been observed in Italy, particularly in Tuscany and northern Sardinia.

What is the solar or geomagnetic storm?

A geomagnetic storm, commonly known as a solar storm, is a natural phenomenon that occurs when the solar wind, a current of charged particles released by the sun, interacts with the Earth's magnetic field. This event can cause significant changes and sudden flows of energy in our planet's magnetic field.

The causes of one geomagnetic storm

Geomagnetic storms are often the result of coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which are large bursts of plasma and magnetic field from the sun's atmosphere. When these particles hit Earth's magnetosphere, they can trigger intense geomagnetic storms. Other causes include solar flares, which are intense releases of energy in the form of light and radiation.

The possible consequences of one geomagnetic storm

The consequences of a geomagnetic storm can be multiple and vary in severity depending on the intensity of the storm and the vulnerability of the technology involved.

Effects on electrical networks

One of the most critical impacts of a geomagnetic storm is its ability to damage the electrical networks. Currents induced by geomagnetism can overheat electrical transformers, causing malfunctions or even total failures. This can lead to large-scale power outages and costly, prolonged repairs.

Impact on communication

Geomagnetic storms can also disturb the radio communications and satellite broadcasts, affecting air navigation, emergency communications, and television broadcasts. Radio waves can be deviated from their normal trajectory, causing communications blackouts and signal loss.

Risks for navigation

The aviation industry is largely dependent on GPS-based technologies for navigation and air traffic control. During a geomagnetic storm, GPS accuracy can be seriously affected, increasing the risk of accidents and complicating flight operations.

Effects on human health

For astronauts in space, a geomagnetic storm poses a serious health risk, as increased radiation can exceed safe exposure limits. Even on Earth, prolonged exposure to intense geomagnetic storms could theoretically affect human health, although research in this area is still developing.

Protection and prevention

Despite the challenges presented by geomagnetic storms, advances in space forecasting have improved the ability to predict these events and mitigate their effects. Space agencies and space meteorologists constantly monitor solar activity, providing warnings that can help prepare and protect critical infrastructure.

The geomagnetic storms they are powerful natural phenomena that can have significant impacts on modern technology and human activities. Understanding and preparing for these storms is essential to protecting our society and technology from their potential destruction.