Spotless Sun Sparks a Geomagnetic Storm

Right now, solar Minimum is in full swing. As you can see, the sun is completely spotless.

Solar Dynamics Observatory HMI Continuum

But, last night the spotless sun produced a G1-class geomagnetic storm with bright auroras reported from Iceland to Alaska.  More lights are in the offing as a stream of solar wind is expected to buffet Earth’s magnetic field for the next 24 to 48 hours.

Similar displays were reported over Iceland (“the best auroras of the season,” says Jónína Óskarsdóttir) and Canada (“STEVE made an appearance as well,” reports Harlan Thomas).

This storm was caused not by sunspots, which have been absent for most of 2018, but rather by a hole in the sun’s atmosphere.  NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory photographed the gaseous fissure on Dec. 24th:

More at Spaceweather.com

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100 thoughts on “Spotless Sun Sparks a Geomagnetic Storm

  1. No doubt the hole was caused by CFCs. There’s probably a research grant available to investigate how man is destroying the Sun.

  2. Well, Al Gore did warn us if we didn’t change our ways and pay indulgences, .. I mean, carbon taxes, humans would ruin the Sun… oh wait… nevermind.

  3. the Sun has been so calm for so long it reminds me of before a tsunami when the water goes away…I think the Sun will roar back going to Solar Maximum like we have never seen it before…and if Earth’s magnetic field keeps flipping we could be in for a lot of blackouts and the like….that’s why I recommend a Doomsday Vault for information just like the Doomsday vault for seeds that is in Norway. Or our digital knowledge could get wiped out. POOF!

    • You’re probably wrong about the details but data backups are always the right thing to do. It really is cheap insurance.

      Here’s an interesting link that deals mostly with the damage that would be caused by a high altitude atomic blast. It also deals with the Carrington Event of 1859 as well as other solar storms.

      • Wouldn’t the amount of atmosphere through which the radiation have to travel mitigate the worst of the effects of such an explosion? I worked in a nuclear plant for a few years and distance was always emphasized in reducing our exposure.

        • Distance away from the nuclear plant would be horizontal through 1atm pressure air, whereas a blast from above goes through a pressure gradient, and it doesn’t amount to much above a few kilometers.

          • Thank you for the response.
            In my work I often worked in close proximity to radioactive materials so the distance from the plant never entered our discussion.

        • The link I provided describes a high altitude blast a long way from Hawaii. The only evidence in Hawaii that anything untoward had taken place was the electromagnetic pulse that destroyed the much simpler electronics of the time. No sound, and no nuclear radiation reached Hawaii. Apparently the flash, as seen from Hawaii, was about as bright as the moon.

        • It’s not the particulate radiation we have to worry about, but the electromagnetic pulse, which long wires will act as antenna, and concentrate. Not a threat to living organisms, but to our power and information infrastructure.

          • So the electromagnetic pulse created by the gama rays interacting with the atoms of the atmosphere would then be directed to the ground by the magnetic field of the earth? The distribution of that pulse would be dependent upon where within that field it was generated? That’s why the nuclear explosion would need to be high in the atmosphere in order for that pulse to be distributed to cause the greatest damage.

        • EMP from nuclear weapon is the result of x-rays and gamma rays striking the upper atmosphere and creating free electrons with heading down considerable energy. These make a quick turn due to the Earth’s magnetic field and the acceleration of the moving charges releases electromagnetic energy. If you are right below this, the entire sky emits this pulse of energy simultaneously and there is an extremely rapid rise time to the pulse. It is the rapid rise time that makes it difficult to handle along with the high intensity if you are right below it.

          Hundreds of miles away the x-rays are hitting the upper atmosphere at a high angle. Not only is the intensity much less, from the ground these will sweep across the sky in about 0.1 microseconds. MOV surge suppressors will work in less time. Do you have enough of them?

          The doomsday claim that a single burst will wipe out electronics across a continent is pretty much nonsense.

        • Tell me! I have had to go through at least half a dozen restores over the last 30+ years on my various PCs and it always was a b***h. Last January it was restore on both of my computers thanks to Microsoft.

          • I don’t do Windows. 🙂

            Before I retired I would use a Windows computer for certain specialized applications. There was some stuff in Matlab and Autocad that I couldn’t live without. Other than that, I have been Linux only for the last twenty years or so.

            I don’t suggest that most people dive into Linux the same way I wouldn’t suggest they do their own electrical, plumbing, and auto mechanics.

          • Other than last January, it was always hard drive failures-It always amazes me how many people don’t have even the simplest backup plan.

    • I own multiple sets of Encyclopedia Britannica, oldest one 1894, newest one 1920, so I got you covered, brah! You can borrow them any time!

  4. So a coronal hole is an area of weak magnetic field on the surface of the Sun, is that right?

    If so, why do they form?
    I can see how Coriolis effects on the plasma around the poles could bend magnetic field lines. So I can see how they could form at 90° to the Earth.
    But this looks like it’s facing us.

    What’s going on?

    • Actually it is an area of less than average density of the corona, which cause the magnetic field to curve away from the area because there is less energy available.
      Lower field strength would therefore be a consequence, no the cause.
      Like the atmosphere of the Earth, the corona is not uniform, and some places are more dense and some less dense, and these are constantly shifting around and changing strength.

      • Thanks for thee answer Menicholas .

        On Earth lower density areas are caused by albedo changes in an area causing variation in heating. Obviously not relevant here. Let me think…
        It’s also caused by mountains pushing the atmosphere upwards. That could work.

        Are these Coronal Holes indications of plasma movements within the Sun? Is this a key to mapping the internal workings of the Sun?
        This is interesting to me. Real Science.

    • Apparently near the poles there are permanent holes, and during solar max most of the holes are near the poles, and near solar minimum they tend to move towards the equator, so this is not unusual for this part of the cycle when the Sun is very quiet.

  5. When we could blame lights in the sky on spirits and our own bad behavior, it was good.
    Now, having a cause, we don’t need to make up fancy stories.

    Only scientists can help us. Leif — What’s going on?

  6. Coronal holes solar wind travels about twice the speed of the normal nearby solar wind. As the sun rotates the fast wind protons tends to catch-up with the earlier slow wind particles causing bunching-up which in turn creates an ‘electro+magnetic’ shock wave carrying considerable energy.
    On bases of this process, certain solar events ‘commentators’ have hypothesised that major earthquakes may be ‘linked’ or ‘associated’ with such shock-waves when they hit the magnetosphere
    I recall (now out of date claim) that in period 2010 to 2014 or 15, there were about 30 or so M7 earthquakes and that 19 or 20 happened at the time when a coronal hole was facing the Earth.
    At the time I took a screen-shot of the list ( http://www.vukcevic.co.uk/CH-Eq.gif )
    since I did some investigation on the subject 3-4 years earlier (see here ), but never bothered to go back and check the claim.

    • So if these holes near the equator of the Sun are more common when the Sun is quiet, we might expect that such events would be stronger and more frequent when the Sun is at minimum and even more so when it is unusually quiet?
      Thus if there is a correlation with seismic activity on Earth…

    • From the “Correlation is not causation” (or is it the”I told you so”?) department, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck the Philippines this morning off the SE coast of Mindanao. Some reports are listing it as a 7.0.

      • I have noticed a blue and sometimes greenish blue color in many instances of arcing, whether lighting, or high voltage short circuits and such.
        In rainstorms this is likely due to absorption of some wavelengths.
        I think the best answer though is that air is mostly oxygen and nitrogen, and when heated to ionization by electric discharge, various wavelengths of photons are emitted as the ions return to a lower energy state.
        Singly ionized nitrogen deexcitation is listed in the blue band of the visible spectrum.
        Singly ionized nitrogen has strong emission lines at 443.3, 444.7, and 463.0 nm.
        Photons in the range of 450 to 495 nm are perceived as blue.
        Oxygen combining to form ozone may also glow blue in the process.

  7. This all gives me an idea.
    What if we posted a log if Alarmist stories on here with their originators andvfhe the publications that showcased them. Then we can ( each of us, individually) email the many,many contra-indicative studies to the originators and publishers asking for a correction or clarification to their earlier erroneous bullshit.
    Or an explanation as to why they refuse to address their errors.

  8. Coronal holes form when the magnetic field in the photosphere weakens , allowing the atmosphere to evaporate into space [leaving a ‘hole’ where the material was previously]. This happens during the declining phase of every sunspot cycle, culminating just before minimum. The magnetic flux is moved by a ‘meridional circulation’ [the Earth’s atmosphere has one too] from the sunspot zones towards the poles; first neutralizing the magnetic flux already at the poles [left over from the previous cycle] and then building up a new polar field which will create a polar coronal hole that steadily grows towards the end of the cycle. Thus, at solar max there is no flux at the poles [and no coronal holes either]. Low-latitude holes are signs of magnetic flux migrating towards the poles. As the magnetic field in the holes is weaker than usual, the solar atmosphere can more readily escape [giving us a solar wind stream]. The field lines are diverging away from the hole which then accelerates the wind outwards [same principle as behind the flaring exhaust shape of rocket engines]. The faster wind from the hole ploughs into the ambient wind and compresses it, creating a shock front with enhanced magnetic field, density, and turbulence. The shock creates a [weak] magnetic storm [with aurorae, etc] when it hits the Earth. This is the mechanism behind the current magnetic activity.

  9. I’m still waiting for a decent KP6-7 so as we get decent aurora across northern Russia, and the Baltic.
    So far it’s only Scotland that seems to have most of the fun, while we peer across the sea, trying to spot some splashes of green from time to time.
    In winter it’s just very frustrating with the cold & lots of cloud cover.

    Let’s hope when next equinox comes we have a better show.

    So tell us Leif, how come Aurora is especially powerful at Equinoxes?

    • Around equinox time cracks tend appear in the magnetosphere (google mcPheron ?) allowing solar wind to penetrate further through the magnetosphere generating stronger aurorae, or at least something of that kind.

      • I should have been more precise: look for Russell‐McPherron effect – Seasonal variation of geomagnetic activity. There are number highly technical articles, but it is as usual that the WUWT gives clear idea what is this all about:

        “The vernal equinox is less than 10 days away. That means one thing: Cracks are opening in Earth’s magnetic field. Researchers have long known that during weeks around equinoxes fissures form in Earth’s magnetosphere. Solar wind can pour through the gaps to fuel bright displays of Arctic lights.
        This is called the the “Russell-McPherron effect,” named after the researchers who first explained it. The cracks are opened by the solar wind itself. South-pointing magnetic fields inside the solar wind oppose Earth’s north-pointing magnetic field. The two, N vs. S, partially cancel one another, weakening our planet’s magnetic defenses. This cancellation can happen at any time of year, but it happens with greatest effect around the equinoxes. Indeed, a 75-year study shows that March is the most geomagnetically active month of the year, followed closely by September-October–a direct result of ‘equinox cracks.’
        https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/03/11/with-the-sun-spotless-cracks-are-forming-in-earths-magnetic-field/

        • look for Russell‐McPherron effect – Seasonal variation of geomagnetic activity.
          Except, that the RM-effect is not the main cause of the seasonal variation of geomagnetic activity.
          That the RM-effect [while real] is not the cause has been known for more than 40 years, but bad science apparently lives forever. Also, the notion of opening up a ‘crack’ in the field is nonsense.

          • If they are wrong, who am I then to correct their interpretations of geo-solar events?
            At least you can look into is their interpretation is correct instead of just parroting their bad science.
            What happened to your critical and skeptical attitude?

            We have known for 40+ years that they are wrong. It seems that it is people like you that helps keeping bad science alive.

            The RM-effect is real: if the IMF polarity is away from the Sun, geomagnetic activity peaks in October, and if the IMF polarity id towards the Sun, activity peaks in April. If the IMF polarity is balanced [equal amount of positive and negative polarity], the two peaks [in October and April] cancel out and there is no semiannual variation. This happens almost all of time, except when the heliospheric current sheet is extremely flat so that the Earth is either above or below it for many months. During such [rare times: has happened only twice in more than a century, see https://leif.org/research/Semiannual%20Variation%201954%20and%201996.pdf ]
            The RM-effect’s influence on the semiannual variation can be observed, otherwise not.
            None of this is controversial, although it has not filtered down to the people at NASA who try to dumb-down what goes on.
            Take this as an occasion to actually learn something.

          • See my comment:
            Leif Svalgaard December 28, 2018 at 4:01 pm
            So tell us Leif, how come Aurora is especially powerful at Equinoxes?
            I think they are not. Rather, they are less powerful at Solstices.
            At such times the Earth’s magnetic field is tilted more strongly towards the direction to the Sun, and therefore is a greater obstacle to interaction with the solar wind [the field at higher latitudes is stronger than at the equator]. See page 42 of https://leif.org/research/suipr699.pdf for a discussion of this.And: https://leif.org/research/AGU%20Fall%202004%20SM41A-02.pdf

            And READ the links.

          • Yes, I did look at your links earlier this morning, as well as two other papers on the subject.
            Yet, you persist in spreading wrong ‘science’. Perhaps ‘looking’ is not good enough. Try ‘reading’ and understanding.

    • At equinox, the sun is directly over earth’s equator. But Earth is also directly over the sun’s equator. The orbital inclination means we are only over the sun’s equator twice a year.

    • So tell us Leif, how come Aurora is especially powerful at Equinoxes?
      I think they are not. Rather, they are less powerful at Solstices.
      At such times the Earth’s magnetic field is tilted more strongly towards the direction to the Sun, and therefore is a greater obstacle to interaction with the solar wind [the field at higher latitudes is stronger than at the equator]. See page 42 of https://leif.org/research/suipr699.pdf for a discussion of this.And: https://leif.org/research/AGU%20Fall%202004%20SM41A-02.pdf

  10. Is this incident why we have warnings of another Sudden Stratospheric Warming event being in progress, like the one that brought the UK ‘the beast from the east’ in Feb/Mar this year?

  11. If Little Ice Age history from c. AD 1350 – 1850/1890 is any indication, we’re entering a 70+ year Grand Solar Minimum similar to that of 1645 – 1715, when wolves froze to death in Rhineland forests and wine glazed over in Louis XIV’s goblet at Versailles.

    Combining geo-historic time-intervals with rudimentary computations, the 12,250-year Holocene Interglacial Epoch which commenced 14,400 years-before-present (YBP) ended 12,250+3,500-14,400 = AD 1350, coincident with Kamchatka’s strato-volcano Kambalny Eruption ending the Medieval Warm.

    Following a 140-year “amplitude compression” rebound through c. AD 2030, a 102,000-year Pleistocene chill phase will return in force, covering 60 – 80% of Earth’s habitable landmasses with ice sheets 2.5 miles deep.
    And what will Cock Robin do then, poor thing?

    • No problem.
      The formula is in place for preventing any such occurrence of undesirable climate change.
      Politicians simply need to raise some taxes once climate alarmists push the panic button.
      Then a few counterintuitive policy changes, and voila!
      Instant same old.

  12. I have an ap on my phone called sun explorer that shows the sun is well decorated with sun spots. Those spots vary in size and shape, they travel across the face of the sun from left to right every day.

    Why does this picture of the sun have no spots here?
    I think this story is fake news!!!

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