NASA scientists on 10 June 2015 developed tool to predict destructive solar storms. The model will help predict solar geomagnetic storms 24 hours in advance.
The storm can cause telecommunication disruptions and power outages. Solar geomagnetic storms may be caused by a giant cloud of solar particles, called a coronal mass ejection (CME), aligned in the opposite direction of the Earth’s magnetic field.
How model works
The model is now undergoing testing, but if it’s robust, then scientists might finally have a tool to predict a CME’s magnetic configuration from afar. This means forecasters could give utility grid and satellite operators a full 24-hour advance warning to protect their systems – crucial time to protect their assets.
If a CME is aligned in the same direction as Earth’s – that is, pointing from south to north – the CME will slide by without much effect.
Currently, scientists don’t have much advance notice of how a CME’s magnetic fields are arranged. They can only measure the fields as the CME passes over satellites close to Earth. Savani made use of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory to observe the magnetic fields of the initial eruption on the Sun.
In the past, using such data to predict which direction the CME’s magnetic fields point has not been very successful. There are no tools to measure the magnetic fields once a CME has moved away from the Sun, but scientists do have ways of watching how the clouds expand, twist and grow as they race into space.
Ultimately, the model can describe how the CME will be configured as it approaches Earth, and even which parts of the CME will have magnetic fields pointed in which direction.
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Who: NASA scientists
When: 10 June 2015