Geomagnetic Storm Watch: What You Need to Know

A geomagnetic storm watch has been issued, says the news. What does this mean? A geomagnetic storm is likely to occur in 48 hours. What does this mean for you? In this blog post, we will discuss what a geomagnetic storm is, and its effects on humans and technology. But it’s typically minimal, and the show of Northern Lights and some communication blackouts are the worst effects of this space weather phenomenon.

What is a geomagnetic storm, and what causes them?

Geomagnetic storms are caused by solar activity, specifically eruptions on the sun’s surface called coronal mass ejections (CMEs). CMEs are vast clouds of plasma and magnetic fields that become dislodged from the sun and travel into space. If a CME is aimed toward Earth, it can interact with our planet’s magnetic field.

This interaction disrupts the flow of charged particles in the magnetosphere and can result in a geomagnetic storm. These storms can cause auroras, power outages, and radio interference. Fortunately, they are usually not harmful to humans, but they can be disruptive nonetheless.

geomagnetic storm watch header image

Why is a geomagnetic storm watch issued?

Recognizing the potential hazards for technology, the space weather division now issues a geomagnetic storm watch to alert satellite, space and air travel operators to the potential of damage to their equipment. Geomagnetic storms can also increase radiation levels for air travel passengers and crew, so there is also a health aspect to issuing these warnings publicly.

What are the effects of geomagnetic storms on humans

Geomagnetic storms are caused by solar activity and can have several effects on humans, although not directly. The most direct impact is on power grids, as the storm can cause a surge of electricity that can overload and damage transformers. This can lead to widespread power outages.

In addition, geomagnetic storms can cause communication disruptions, as radio waves can be redirected or absorbed by the storm. GPS signals can also be affected, leading to inaccurate readings.

Finally, geomagnetic storms can cause auroras, which are beautiful but can also be disorienting and disruptive to sleep cycles.

man in aurora

What are the effects of geomagnetic storms on technology?

Disruptions in the Earth’s magnetosphere cause geomagnetic storms. These disruptions can cause various problems for technology, especially satellites and power grids.

The increased radiation can damage satellites, and power grids can be knocked offline by induced currents. In severe cases, geomagnetic storms can also cause aurorae to form at lower latitudes than usual. While these lights are beautiful, they can also cause communication disruptions in more populated areas.

What is the aurora?

The aurora is a natural light display most often seen in the high latitude polar regions. It is caused by the collision of charged particles from the sun with atoms in the upper atmosphere. The particles are funneled towards the poles by the Earth’s magnetic field and interact with oxygen and nitrogen molecules, causing them to emit light.

The aurora can take on many different forms, ranging from a faint glow to a vibrant curtain of light. It is usually seen as a band of light that appears to move across the sky. The aurora is named after the Roman goddess of dawn, and it is also sometimes referred to as the Northern Lights.

Colorful aurora

When is the best time to view the aurora?

The best time to view the aurora is during the darkest hours of the night when the sky is clear and free of light pollution. Although the aurora can technically be seen at any time of year, it is most visible during the fall and winter months, when the nights are longest.

For optimal viewing, head to a location away from city lights, and dress warmly for a long night outdoors. With patience and luck, you might be treated to one of nature’s most spectacular light shows.

Wrapping up

Bottom line? There’s not much to worry about when a Geomagnetic Storm Watch is issued. However, if you depend on technologies like GPS, be aware that there could be brief periods when it becomes unreliable during the storm’s peak.

If you’re in an area where the aurora is common, check your local forecast and bundle up — and enjoy the show!

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