Sunday, January 6, 2019

First Geomagnetic Storm of the Year Hits Earth

A G1-class (minor) geomagnetic storm hit the Earth on Saturday, January 5, when a stream of solar wind reached our planet’s magnetosphere. The gaseous material that triggered the storming had its origin in a large hole in the sun's atmosphere.

In result of the storm, visible auroras are concentrated around Earth's poles and weak power grid fluctuations could occur. The current G1-level storming could also have minor impact on satellite operations. 

Geomagnetic storms can increase the density and distribution of density in the upper atmosphere, causing extra drag on satellites in low-earth orbit. The local heating also creates strong horizontal variations in the in the ionospheric density that can modify the path of radio signals and create errors in the positioning information provided by GPS. While the storms create beautiful aurora, they also can disrupt navigation systems such as the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and create harmful geomagnetic induced currents in the power grid and pipelines.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that solar activity is expected to be very low during the next three weeks, while geomagnetic field activity may reach G1 storm levels on January 24, with active levels expected on January 16, due to recurrent coronal hole high-speed stream (CH HSS) effects.

Fast CH HSSs can impact Earth’s magnetosphere enough to cause periods of geomagnetic storming to the G1-G2 (moderate) levels; although rarer cases of stronger storming may also occur. The larger and more expansive coronal holes can often be a source for high solar wind speeds that buffet Earth for many days.


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