Biggest solar storm since 2005

It is being called by WaPo “The Biggest solar storm since 2005“. The sun erupted late on January 22nd, 2012 with an M8.7 class flare. The Solar Dynamics Observatory captured the flare as seen below.

From NASA: The coronal mass ejection CME collided with Earth’s magnetic field a little after 10 AM ET on January 24, 2012. The influx of particles from the CME amplified the solar radiation storm such that it is now considered the largest since October 2003. NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center has categorized it as a “strong” — or S3 (with S5 being the highest) – storm. Solar radiation storms can affect satellite operations and short wave radio propagation, but cannot harm humans on Earth. Auroras may well be visible tonight at higher latitudes such as Michigan and Maine in the U.S., and perhaps even lower.

From spaceweather.com

CME IMPACT: As expected, a CME hit Earth’s magnetic field on Jan. 24th at approximately 1500 UT (10 am EST). A G1-class geomagnetic storm is in progress now, producing bright auroras around the Arctic Circle. Sky watchers in Canada, Alaska, and states along the US-Canadian border should be alert for Northern Lights after nightfall. Tip: The hours around local midnight are often best for aurora sightings. Aurora alerts: text, voice.

In Lofoton, Norway, the CME’s arrival produced a surge in ground currents outside the laboratory of Rob Stammes:

“The expected CME arrived and showed up on my instruments at 15.10 UTC–a fantastic shockwave followed by a magnetic storm,” says Stammes. “This could be a happy day for many aurora watchers.”

Indeed, the first auroras, post-impact, have been sighted in northern Europe. Antti Pietikäinen sends this picture from Muonio in the Finnish Lapland:

“We went out with snowmobiles to wait for the incoming storm,” says Pietikäinen. “The show started slowly, but after 15mins the landscape was green! This was the first time for Thomas (pictured above) to see the Northern Lights. He was very happy.”

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48 thoughts on “Biggest solar storm since 2005

  1. I know these “High class flares” happen all the time – (but all the “fallout” or CME) is not always coming in our direction.

    However it may be tempting for someone to say it’s “The storm before the quiet” – It is 2012 after all!?!

  2. The current “potential” aurora position is situated more on the Russian side of the auroral oval as it was during the first front 48 hours ago. At this point (wed 01:00 UTC) the Kp index is 5 which mirrors the first front, but the aurora extension so far is not as great.

    A live 3D aurora viewer is available from the Layman’s page.

    http://tinyurl.com/2dg9u22/?q=node/50

    Meanwhile the solar surface only displays two countable regions (LSC)

  3. Yes here we do sometimes see the Aurora very faintly but more usually the odd skyrocket. There was a fantastic display nearly twenty years ago I think. Very impressive too, better than I ever saw up on the fringe of the Arctic circle: but only visible for a few minutes, I was very lucky to catch it, purely by chance as I drove along the mountain road at about two in the morning. .

    But alas at the moment we have been and still are suffering from low overcast so no fireworks for us I am afraid. So I shall go to bed instead.

    Kindest Regards

  4. The need for headlines sometimes make clever people to say silly things. What if I say, “today was the warmest day in São Paulo (where I live) since July”? Of course it is useless information, we are in summer, and July is winter! In the same way we are now in the “summer” of the solar cycle and in 2005 the Sun were heading its “winter”. In a few months this CME will be a common one. In any case, enjoy the Auroras.

  5. Update wed 01:15 UTC: Kp index dropping to 3, with the POES auroral position shrinking quickly. The show may possibly be over? I managed to capture an image at its peak which will be available later from the Layman’s page along with an animation of the first front.

  6. Um, was wondering to myself as I read the title, thought it was in 2003?

    The influx of particles from the CME amplified the solar radiation storm such that it is now considered the largest since October 2003.
    Title change needed or did I miss something?

  7. yes some flights was diverted..(probably mostly because of the scare) but even if the proton shower was the largest in 6 years it was just 1/10 of the proton shower in 2003…. and the flare/cme was nothing very special…

    But a great show here at the arctic frontiers confer nee in Tromsø:

  8. Hope tehre is celaring tonight in NE Oregon. Snowing now…
    good chance at 45N+ . WIfe’s never seen them-despite livng in
    Michigan and the Yukon a bit…

  9. Thanks, all, for the info and links.
    Last views for me were in early 1989 in central WASH State while driving east on I-90.

  10. The magnetosphere looks like it was tied in a knot before the impact, was rocking and rolling when the flare hit, and then it settled down as the impact continued:

    Was there a sensor failure somewhere in there?

  11. Forbush decrease?

    Expected effect on global temps?

    (Which according to UAH are going thru the freaking floor right now, BTW)

  12. Can you give more information? Is it danerous at all? Will it affect the climate? Will it really affect sat comms and stuff as people often say? Is it very rare? What is the biggest ever recorded? Will it make Al-Gore have a bad hair day?

    thanks.

  13. Two simple questions;
    1. Do these things exit at an angle perpendicular to the surface of the sun?
    2. Why does it take so long for these things to reach the earth? Why don’t they travel at the speed of light?
    Cheers

  14. @JJ
    “…global temps?…going thru the freaking floor right now…”
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    So true. A real nosedive!
    Just look at the Daily global average temperature at: 14,000 ft / 600 mb (AQUA ch05) plot for January, years 2002 through 2012 on

    http://discover.itsc.uah.edu/amsutemps/

    Either there was a recent instrumental failure on AQUA’s cho5, or it’s getting mighty cold all over the world now.

  15. We had a bulls eye in Halifax NS. About 7:00 am AST ( I was awoken with my UPS alarming) the power went out in a large section of our city… transformer fire…

  16. Increase in ground currents is a little like increasing current in your electric heater – both tend to cause the same effect. Electric currents passing through liquids and gases will tend to increase the movement of matter, which in the case of air suggests increased winds etc.

    Perth at this point in time is experiencing a heat wave. Any relation ship to the CME’s ? Probably.

  17. Even if the WaPo assessment is correct (not entirely likely), the biggest geomag storm since ’05 was rather a dud by my mid-latitude standards. It was nowhere in the league of 1989 or 1958, when Alaskans had to look south to see the auroras which were over Mexico and the Cayman Islands.
    So if the big event of cycle 24 is so modest, what’s that say about the cycle itself?
    Not to suggest anything, but auroras were quite rare over central Europe during the Maunder Minimum.

  18. Steve from Rockwood says: January 24, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    1. Do these things exit at an angle perpendicular to the surface of the sun?

    Noting that that is an M6-Class Solar Flare and CME from August 3, 2011.

  19. G. E. Pease says: January 24, 2012 at 8:14 pm
    JJ says: January 24, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    “…global temps?…going thru the freaking floor right now…”
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    So true. A real nosedive!
    Just look at the Daily global average temperature at: 14,000 ft / 600 mb (AQUA ch05) plot for January, years 2002 through 2012 on

    http://discover.itsc.uah.edu/amsutemps/

    Either there was a recent instrumental failure on AQUA’s cho5, or it’s getting mighty cold all over the world now.

    Interesting, this tropospheric temperature decline coincides with the Sudden Stratospheric Warming that can be seen forming in this 500-hPa/mb Height Anomalies Animation – Atmospheric Pressure Anomalies at Approximately 5500 meters (18,000 feet)

    jumps out on the AO Index:

    is readily apparent in this Global – 10-hPa/mb Height Temperature Anomalies Animation – Atmospheric Temperature Anomalies At Approximately 31,000 meters (101,700 feet):

    and on this Mean Temperature above 80°N chart:

    http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/meant80n.uk.php

    Also growth of Sea Ice decreased in both Extent;

    and Area;

  20. Great stuff
    This is the driver of our current top level (on the scale 1 to 5) ‘R5′ red warning of solar-weather effects and increased major earthquake (trial) risk ~25-26 Jan. It is on time
    See Solar action section at

    http://www.weatheraction.com/displayarticle.asp?a=418&c=5

    We get about one or two R5′s in most months We had not said much about this one compred with other R5s but the ones in February will be more significant.
    Thanks
    Piers
    PS on a recent pdf there is a typo re event 6 Adelaide heatwave it should be 38C not 28C, obviously!

    http://www.weatheraction.com/docs/WANews12No5.pdf

  21. No doubt this explains the heavy rain in Sydney and also the high temperatures in Adelaide. Might also have contributed to the poor performance of the Indian cricket team!

  22. Steve from Rockwood says:
    January 24, 2012 at 8:11 pm
    Two simple questions;

    Leif must still be in Japan. So, . . .

    http://solarscience.msfc.nasa.gov/CMEs.shtml

    “CMEs are huge bubbles of gas threaded with magnetic field lines that are ejected from the Sun over the course of several hours.”

    So this seems to say that the idea of exiting “at an angle perpendicular to the surface” is not appropriate as the area is very large and various forces effect the material. The other question (re: speed of light) is answered in the quote above. The material is not “light” (photons) and can not travel at the speed of light. Plasma is often used to indicate the material of the CME.

  23. (resend maybe a mistake)
    Great stuff!
    This is the ‘R5′ top (on scale 1 to 5) Red Weather warning and major quake risk (trial) increase we forecast for 25-26Jan and it is on time. Immediate effects are more precip, higher thunder/tornado risk etc – see

    http://www.weatheraction.com/displayarticle.asp?a=418&c=5

    Thanks
    Piers Corbyn
    NB There is a typo in the most recent WANews – No5. 28C for Adelaide heat should be 38C (as in inset)!

    http://www.weatheraction.com/docs/WANews12No5.pdf

  24. Louis Hissink says:
    January 24, 2012 at 8:34 pm
    Perth at this point in time is experiencing a heat wave. Any relation ship to the CME’s ? Probably

    It has been raining buckets with floods in Queensland and northern NSW with floods. Some places 300mm in 5 hrs. Last year there were also floods. A records show 2 to 3 times the average January rain in the sequential years 1893, 1894 & 1895 but no other sequential period of 2 or more years. Is there a cyclical of about 120 years?

  25. Just The Facts says:

    Interesting, this tropospheric temperature decline coincides with the Sudden Stratospheric Warming that can be seen forming in this 500-hPa/mb Height Anomalies Animation – Atmospheric Pressure Anomalies at Approximately 5500 meters (18,000 feet)

    Interesting indeed! If you understand this phenomenon, please do a post.

  26. Patrick Kelly says:

    January 24, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    No doubt this explains the heavy rain in Sydney and also the high temperatures in Adelaide. Might also have contributed to the poor performance of the Indian cricket team!

    No, they were very poor here in England last summer. Didn’t make 300 in any innings in any Test. They don’t need a CME to play poorly! Good heavans, even the Aussies can beat them, that’s how poor they are!

  27. Hey…so like what happens to solar panels in a solar storm? Do the spin to fast and burn up like wind turbines do in a wind storm?

    OK, now let me go off topic kinda and talk about the State of the Union…did you here the part where Obama was bragging about Solyndra?

  28. How is it worked out that the power of the Sun is said to be about 386 billion billion megawatts yet the surface temperature is said to be 5800 K and Sunspots are “cool” regions and are said to be only 3800 K. And it is said the earth receives 94 billion megawatt of energy from Sun?

    I can’t figure out the math, are these figures pulled from someones hat as an educated guess?

    Did the 94 billion megawatt of energy that earth receives from Sun rise from the CME’s or is that wrong too?

  29. David Jones,
    Sledging Aus on a US website?

    But then it is always best to sledge BEFORE the next game!
    Just in case you don’t win.
    Which means the opposition is only playing catch-up. :)

  30. @John and Just The Facts. Thanks for the links! I was wondering how scientists could estimate whether a CME was headed for Earth but then there would be plenty of time to determine direction as the Earth is moving (I never thought about that when I asked a few questions).

  31. http://fedgeno.com/documents/on-the-relation-between-solar-activity-and-seismicity.pdf

    Magnitude 5.1 – NORTHERN ITALY
    2012 January 25 08:06:35 UTC

    http://fedgeno.com/documents/on-the-relation-between-solar-activity-and-seismicity.pdf

    The main source of high-speed solar wind are solar
    coronal boles and coronal mags ejections (CMEs). They
    are both regularly monitored by satellite and groundbased
    instruments, which makes it possible to forecast
    periods of enhanced seismic risk. To he geoeffective, the
    solar wind from a coronal hole or from a CME has to first
    arrive at the Earth, so the geoeffectiveness of solar wind
    from a both coronal hole and from a CME mainly.
    depends on their position relative to the Earth. For the
    CMEs an additional factor is their size and speed. Faster
    and wider CMEs are more geoeffective.

    http://daltonsminima.altervista.org/

  32. Is it my imagination or did temperatures spike after the last few CMEs? I noticed here in CT that a warm spell hit about a week after each ejection.

  33. Andrew says:
    OK, now let me go off topic kinda and talk about the State of the Union…did you here the part where Obama was bragging about Solyndra?

    That wasn’t this year.

  34. “It is being called by WaPo “The Biggest solar storm since 2005“.

    Yet as recently as Jan. 5th a WaPo post linked to the Aug. 2011 event that was 7 times bigger. The Feb. 2011 event was also bigger.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/2011/02/22/ABV7qSI_category.html?blogId=capital-weather-gang&cat=Astronomy

    http://www.space.com/12580-sun-unleashes-major-solar-flare.html

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/News080911-xclass.html

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/News021411-xclass.html

  35. JJ says: January 24, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    Interesting indeed! If you understand this phenomenon, please do a post.

    I wouldn’t say understand, but I am starting to comprehend some of the basics. I will incorporate some of it into a forthcoming Sea Ice post.

  36. An M8.7 flare is the biggest since 2005? The K index reached only 5 and the A reached only 17. That shows just how low solar activity has been. Used to be no one paid much attention to these flares until they reached X class. I wish I still had some old cassette recordings of WWV I made when the A index was higher than the solar flux. If records exist, I believe if you look at November 15, 1979 you’ll find a flare enhanced solar flux of 378, the highest number I ever heard.

  37. As the title of the article says, whether we are ready or not, there is going to be Solar Storm Activity. At least, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). They have issued a warning that there could be Solar Storm activity for sometime from late 2012 to the early part of 2013. They know it’s going to happen, the only question is exactly when and to what extent it occurs. What is known, is the potential problem of wide-spread power outages that could impact millions for weeks or months, before power can be restored. Planning for such an emergency can be done the same as many other disasters…with one major exception!

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