What is a solar storm, and did one impact Earth this week?

Weather Stories

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Over the last few days, you’ve probably seen on social media or heard people talking about a solar storm headed right for Earth. Well, it did, and you probably didn’t even notice.

That doesn’t mean it didn’t impact us in some way, however. When a solar storm, or geomagnetic storm, impacts Earth, you may notice your GPS not working as well. Radio communication can also get interrupted, or even go completely down with a stronger storm, and it’s the same story for the power grid. If a storm is strong enough, it can cause issues or even a complete failure of the power grid.

Fortunately, that didn’t happen with this solar storm, but the most common, and most widely known impact is the aurora making a beautiful display at the northern latitudes.

So what is a geomagnetic storm, and why does it bring these impacts? The sun obviously has a lot of energy, Occasionally, energy is pushed out from the surface. When that energy interacts with Earth’s magnetic field, that’s a geomagnetic storm.

Dr. Michele Cash at the Space Weather Prediction Center said most storms are going to be like this, with minor impacts, but as we continue our reliance on technology, we need to watch for stronger geomagnetic storms in the future.

“So, with our technologies relying more and more on satellite technologies, the space weather impacts become more important in these sectors,” she said.

This storm, thankfully, didn’t bring crippling impacts to the United States. It was mainly a beautiful light show to the north.

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