Solar Storm Shakes Earth Magnetic Field

By Seth Borenstein

WASHINGTON (AP) A solar storm shook the Earth’s magnetic field, but scientists said they had no reports of any problems with electrical systems.

After reports of the storm fizzling out, a surge of activity prompted space weather forecasters to issue alerts about changes in the magnetic field.

“We really haven’t had any reports from power system operators yet,” Rob Steenburgh, a space weather forecaster at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center, said. “But sometimes they don’t come in until after the storm.”

He said the storm reached a moderate level late, before going to a strong level early the next morning. For most of the day, it was rated as minor.

Scientists say such storms do not pose a threat to people, just technology.

The space weather center’s website says a storm rated as strong could force corrections to voltage systems and trigger false alarms on some protection devices, as well as increase drag on satellites and affect their orientation.

The forecasters were not aware of any significant impact to electrical or technological systems, but said there was a two-hour blackout of high frequency radio communications – affecting mainly ham radio operations – stretching from eastern Africa to eastern Australia.

Steenburgh also said that there was another solar flare, similar to the one a few days prior that set off the current storm.

“Right now we’re still analyzing when it will arrive” and how strong it could be, he said.

The space weather center had reports of Northern Lights across Canada and dipping into the northern tier of U.S. states, Steenburgh said.

While some experts thought the threat from the solar storm passed by, the space weather center maintained the storm’s effects could continue through morning.

The current storm, which started with a solar flare in the evening, caused a stir because forecasts were for a strong storm with the potential to knock electrical grids offline, mess with global positioning systesms and harm satellites. It even forced airlines to reroute a few flights that day.

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Posted by on Apr 2nd, 2012 and filed under Literature & Electronic. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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