NASA warns of a solar storm this Tuesday that could affect communications on Earth

Scientist Tamitha Skov warns of the possible impact of this eruption which could cause interference in radio and GPS signals

Susan Zamora

The Covid-19 pandemic, the eruption of the La Palma volcano, monkey pox, the multiplication of fires due to climate change, the war in Ukraine, soaring prices… As if that were not enough, the models NASA forecasters predict a solar storm for this Tuesday, July 19, as warned by scientist Tamitha Skov, nicknamed the “climate woman”. A researcher at the US Aerospace Corporation, she herself shared this forecast last Saturday via her Twitter profile: “Direct hit! A serpent-shaped filament from a solar storm will impact the Earth.”

The consequences that the impact of this “direct hit” could cause are interference in radio and GPS signals. Some signal blackouts would occur especially in regions of the planet where it is dark, as Skov explained. Another effect caused by these solar storms is the appearance of aurora borealis.

When these filaments reach Earth, “energy from a solar flare will interact with the ionosphere, the outermost layer of the atmosphere, which is essential for radio signals,” explained Alex Young, associate scientific director of the Heliophysics Division of NASA’s Goddard Flight Center. in Greenbelt, Maryland.

For his part, Skov explained that there is a scale to measure the strength of these geomagnetic storms, which range from level G1 to G5, in order to analyze the intensity and effects of storms.

According to the National Geographic Institute (IGN) on its website, these values ​​are linked to the values ​​of the Kp index (indicator of global auroral activity) reached, and indicate the average frequency with which they appear at each solar cycle. . “The magnetic orientation of this solar storm is going to be difficult to predict. Level G2 (possibly G3) conditions may occur if the magnetic field of this storm is southward,” the NASA scientist explained in a another tweet.

solar cycles

The Sun is not a solid body, it rotates faster around its equator than at its poles. Over time, NASA notes, complex magnetic fields bend, building up energy. Energy builds up to create shock waves that accelerate particles away from the Sun, causing what is known as a particle storm or solar storm. If this accumulated energy is sufficient, it will be blasted out of the star in an eruption that can reach Earth within days.

In the coming years, solar storms are expected to occur more frequently: at the end of 2019, the Sun entered a new cycle with minimum solar activity which will increase during its natural cycle of approximately eleven years. Peak activity is expected to occur between 2024 and 2026.

As documented by
National Geographic Institute (IGN), the major geomagnetic torment that was registered in the history, on September 1, 1859. It is conoce as el ‘Evento Carrington’ in honor of the English astronomer Richard Carrington that observed the solar eruption and the association with a geomagnetic torment for the first time. “Precisely at this time, the geomagnetic instrumentation of photographic recording began to develop, and for this reason, very few geomagnetic observatories were able to obtain a recording of this phenomenon”, specifies this organization.

This storm left a remarkable trail of auroras across Europe, Central America and even Hawaii, with a geomagnetic latitude of just 20º. In Spain, this phenomenon was observed quite spectacularly and was picked up by the local press of the time. Telegraph lines, which were the primary means of telecommunication at the time, were badly affected across the United States and Europe, even sparking fires.

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