Internet blackouts: Solar storm to hit the Earth today - will we see the Northern Lights?
Mass radio, internet and GPS blackouts may be likely in parts of the world at midday today (December 1) as a massive solar storm is predicted to hit the Earth and impact various forms of communications as well as spark vibrant auroras. The solar storm, also known as a coronal mass ejection (CME), could interfere with the Earth’s magnetic field.
Space weather physicist Tamitha Skov said on X, formally known as Twitter: "The storm is predicted to hit Earth by midday December 1... If the magnetic field is oriented correctly, expect aurora to reach deep into mid-latitudes. Amateur radio and GPS reception issues are likely, especially on Earth’s nightside."
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other forecasters had already predicted three solar storms were heading towards the Earth and some may produce stronger magnetic field disruptions. “Along with two earlier storms already en route [this] means we have a 1,2,3-punch,” Dr Skov said earlier, adding that there are “excellent chances” of strong G3-level magnetic storms and auroras on Earth.
Solar storm intensities are denoted by the letter G, and followed by numbers ranging from 1 to 5, 1 being the most minor event and 5 being the most extreme. Storms labelled as G3 or onwards are storms that are likely to cause intermittent satellite navigation and low-frequency radio navigation problems.
The NOAA said: "With 3 CMEs already inbound, the addition of a 4th, full halo CME has prompted SWPC forecasters to upgrade the G2 Watch on 01 Dec to a G3 Watch. This faster-moving halo CME is progged to merge with 2 of the 3 upstream CMEs, all arriving at Earth on 01 Dec. G3 (strong) conditions are now likely on 01 Dec".
Solar storms are energy blasts from the sun containing plasma and ionised matter. They are produced from solar flare events which are explosive events on the Sun coming from the release of magnetic energy linked with sunspots. This storm is coming from a strong flare near “Region 3500” on the Sun, scientists say and may interfere with Earth’s magnetic field. This will cause damage to electrical grids, knock out satellites and in some cases disrupt internet connectivity.
Due to this solar storm, we may be able to see auroras in the night sky, so keep an eye out for any lights in the atmosphere.