Saturday 11 May 2024

Solar Storms

Listeners of the HPANWO Show on HPANWO Radio will know that on every programme I deliver a space weather report. What is happening right now is one of the reasons I do that. On the latest show, see:, I describe the sunspot AR3664. This is by far the biggest and most energetic sunspot I've ever seen since I began the project in 2012. The spot is so huge its diameter is more than fifteen times that of the earth. It can be seen on the solar disk without any magnification. (NB: please do not look at the sun without the correct optical equipment or eclipse goggles. Otherwise you risk permanent blindness from the damage the light and ultraviolet radiation can do to your eyes.) This sunspot is as big and as powerful as the famous Carrington sunspot of 1859. There is a comparative illustration above where the two sunspot records are superimposed onto the solar disk. When the Carrington event happened, the spot erupted with a massive X-class solar flare and coronal mass ejection; which resulted in a G5 extreme type geomagnetic storm which overloaded the entire electronic infrastructure of the earth. Luckily in those days that just meant a few telegraph wires, but in today's day and age the electronic infrastructure is so much more complex and we are so much more dependent on it. A Carrington event today would not cause any physical harm to life on earth, but it would devastate the human world with widespread power-cuts and telephone and internet outages. This would throw the financial world into chaos and threaten the safety of ships at sea and aircraft in flight; and that's just the beginning. There are ways and means of reducing the harm caused by a Carrington event; for example by reducing power on the national grid, shutting down computers etc, but this requires coordination and planning. If such an event happens we may not get much notice. Solar flares travel very quickly, many hundred of miles per second. We may only get one or two days to prepare, possibly less. In 2003 there was a geomagnetic storm that caused a blackout across millions of square miles of North America that lasted three days. Is this going to happen again, or worse? I don't know. If it does this could be the excuse for the "black swan event", see: All we can really do right now is enjoy the free fireworks. Yes, there will be aurora borealis in the sky tonight in latitudes that don't normally see them. Hopefully the sky where I am will be free of cloud.
See here for more information:

No comments: