With this solar flare/electromagnetic storm coming today, it brings up a question. This has been given a Class 3 status. What would the strongest Class 5 do to us?
Here’s an explanation of the NOAA scale of geomagnetic storms:
By the way, this event is technically a coronal mass ejection (CME), an eruption that spews out a large amount of charged particles. A flare is an intense energy release characterized by strong X-ray emission. We used to think it’s all the same but it turns out sometimes a CME can happen without a strong X-ray emission, and vice versa.
On preview: curses!
Let me clarify that a bit more. When the sun ejects mass into interstellar space, that’s a CME. When that ejected mass happens to be aimed in our direction, it travels here in a couple of days and interacts with the earth’s magnetic field to cause a geomagnetic storm. The “Class 3” is a measure of severity of the geomagnetic storm.
You know, it occurs to me that the effects I quoted don’t really answer the question; at least not in a way that a lot of people would understand. So maybe some other people could explain what all of that stuff means, in terms of the day-to-day operation of modern civilisation, and stuff. For example:
“widespread voltage control problems” - for who would a lack of control over their voltage be problematic?
“extensive surface charging” - what does that actually do to a spacecraft, though? I mean, will it, like, pop?
“pipeline currents can reach hundreds of amps” - The pipelines that lead to my toilet? Or what?
“HF (high frequency) radio propagation may be impossible in many areas for one to two days” - affecting who?
“low-frequency radio navigation can be out for hours” - same question as above.
And finally, “Transformers may experience damage” - This is regrettable, but what doesn’t kill Megatron can only make Megatron stronger.
By the way, If you’ve never seen a naked-eye sunspot, this is an excellent opportunity. Be sure to use adequate eye protection.
When is this supposed to hit and what will the duration be? Won’t this likely result in some good aurora effects?
Satellites are usually designed to withstand static charge buildup.But in extreme cases such as a severe geomagnetic storm, parts of the spacecraft are charged up higher than others and arcing (coronal discharge) can occur. It’s the same phenomenon as touching yorur car door and getting shocked by static electricity. This can damage components on the satellite. Many satellites have high-voltage circuitry, i.e. pars that are at high voltage to bein with, and these parts are especially prone to arcing problems. Those satellites usually turn off their high-voltage components when a severe geomagnetic storm is forecast. These days it’s very rare to lose a satellite this way, but it has happened before.
Most of the effects on the ground are due to fluctuating magnetic fields. If you remember your high school physics, a fluctuating (changing/moving) magnetic field induces electrical current in a wire. In case of geomagnetic storms, the fluctuation is large scale (over tens or hundreds of miles) and slow. This doesn’t do much to your household wiring. But on very long wires and metal structures (high-tension wires, telephone cables and oil pipelines) the entire structure is exposed to this field, so the cumulative effect is huge. You’d think electric transmission lines are designed to handle high voltages and currents, but they are designed only to handle 60 Hz AC. The current/voltage induced by a gemagnetic storm is much slower (DC for all intents and purposes) so they can still be dangerous to transformers and power stations.
I don’t know too much about HF radio, but it has something to do with the earth’s ionosphere being disrupted by the storm.
The 60 Hz AC isn’t a product of voltage or current…it’s the frequency of the AC in the line. The transmission lines do operate at pretty high voltages relative to what comes out of your wall socket, the transformers mentioned step this high voltage back down to a useable level for consumers.
Just a small nitpick…
I remember back in '77 I think it was. There was quite an aurora discharge here in extreme north Texas…the sky was red, looked like fire reflected off the bottom of clouds, except you could see the stars through the “clouds” .
Natural gas go boom?
satellite communication for example (phones, tv, internet, gps to varying degrees)
LORAN - you want that oil supertanker to know where it’s going (see also GPS above)