Three days, three flares: Airlines, power-grid operators and Aurora Borealis fanatics are on high alert today as successive waves of solar particles pound the planet.
- The third in a rapid-fire discharge of powerful solar flares from the sun this week occurred yesterday, Aug. 4. The effects will be felt on earth's electronics systems today. (NASA/SDO)
A trio of deleterious clouds coughed out by the sun over each of the past three days is snowballing into a massive hairball of electrically charged particles that started to splat into Earth early this morning.
The plasma arrived in our airspace around 2 a.m., although the initial radiation spouted by the solar flares responsible for these clouds has already caused disruptions in the aerospace industry. Disruptions, it should be noted, that airliners anticipate and control for. NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center has expressed "great anticipation" for the arrival of this Neapolitan of coronal mass ejections, which is expected to cause G2 to G3 geomagnetic storming today, as well as "potentially elevated protons to the S2 (Moderate) Solar Radiation Storm condition, those piling up ahead of the shock." You can see the plasma shoot in successive waves from the Sun in this groovy animation from NASA.
What impact will this have on Joe Earthling?
G3 storms are medium-intensity events that can cause satellites to veer from their intended orbits, GPS devices to give bad readings and power systems to voice false alarms. But again, people control for that or they'd be out of jobs pretty quick. More relevant for people who live in Maine, Vermont, Washington, Michigan, New Hampshire and other northern states, the Aurora Borealis is likely to flood down from the pole into clear sight on Friday night. So drink lots of coffee tonight and send any Northern Lights pictures here, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more on the effects of this week's grouped-up plasma bursts, look no further than this explainer from NOAA physicist Doug Biesecker. He starts the video with an apologetic "Sorry!" for some reason, but comes back strong: