‘Severe’ Geomagnetic Solar Storm Watch Activated For First Time in 19 Years, GPS and Power Grids Threatened

In a rare occurrence, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has elevated a geomagnetic solar storm watch from “moderate” to “severe” as a series of solar flares hurtle toward Earth, according to a new report from the New York Post.

According to Professor Peter Becker of George Mason University, these flares are akin to “the muzzle flash” of a cannon, with the coronal mass ejection (CME) being the “cannon shot” that follows.

The CMEs, which are expected to combine and strike Earth in a glancing blow, could lead to a stunning display of the Northern Lights but also disrupt GPS systems, satellite communications, and cause high-frequency radio blackouts.

Over the past day, two massive sunspots, spanning 16 times the diameter of the Earth, have merged and released at least two X-class (largest) and several M-class (second-largest) solar flares.

The Space Weather Prediction Center stated, “RGN 3664 (the combined sunspot region) continues to grow and increase in magnetic complexity and has evolved into a higher threat of increased solar flare risk.”

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The impending geomagnetic storm could trigger widespread voltage irregularities in power systems, cause false alarms on security devices, and hinder the orientation of low Earth orbit satellites.

Additionally, GPS systems may experience range errors and loss-of-lock.

Residents as far south as northern California, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Virginia may be treated to a spectacular view of the Northern Lights.

NOAA scientists have observed only three severe geomagnetic storms since the current solar cycle began in December 2019. “The last (observed) Severe geomagnetic storm was on March 23, 2024, and the last Extreme was the Halloween Storms in October 2003,” the SWPC reported. “That G5 (Extreme storm) resulted in power outages in Sweden and damaged power transformers in South Africa.”

As the current 11-year solar cycle approaches its peak, which NOAA forecasts will occur sometime in 2024 or early 2025, solar activity is expected to remain high for the next several months or even years.

Tree rings and ice cores provide evidence of much larger solar superstorms in the past, such as the great Carrington Event of 1859, which blanketed nearly the entire planet in aurora.

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With the sun crackling with sunspot energy and the solar cycle nearing its apex, this severe geomagnetic storm watch serves as a reminder of the potential impact solar activity can have on our increasingly technology-dependent world.