Just when we could really use a break from natural disasters, nuclear disasters, financial disasters, drought, famine, extreme weather, armed conflict and all sort of other afflictions, here comes a solar storm to knock out our communications systems, satellites and god knows what else (anyone thinking 2012?). Cassandra Sweet reports for the Wall Street Journal:
Two blasts of energy from the sun hit the Earth’s magnetic field Friday and could disrupt one or more electrical grids, global-positioning systems or other satellite-communications systems, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Friday.
The blasts touched Earth’s magnetic field in the form of fast-moving “solar wind” and is blowing by the Earth, Joseph Kunches, a space weather scientist with NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, said in an interview.
Mr. Kunches said it is too early to know what the effects of the blasts will be. “If it’s a really big storm, it still could be active [Saturday] night, but this kind of disturbance level won’t be sustained for long,” he said.
But Mr. Kunches added, “It seems that the magnetic field is getting hit harder than we thought it would.”
The storms are two of three large explosions from the sun’s surface since Tuesday, according to NOAA.
The agency has notified U.S. electric-grid and satellite-communication operators of the events, which could interfere with some communications, particularly those that are closest to the South and North Poles, Mr. Kunches said.
“The magnetic poles in both hemispheres are most exposed to charged particles that come from solar wind,” he said.
Airlines with international flights between North America and Asia have been notified of the solar wind, which has been known to interfere with high-frequency radio communications, Mr. Kunches said…
[continues in the Wall Street Journal]