What is a Geomagnetic Storm and what are its effects?

A geomagnetic storm is a disturbance in the Earth's magnetosphere. It is caused by a solar wind shock wave or cloud of the magnetic field that interacts with the Earth's magnetic field. The geomagnetic storm of 1859, also called the Carrington storm, was the largest geomagnetic storm ever recorded.
Created On: Feb 10, 2022 15:15 IST
Modified On: Apr 7, 2022 13:57 IST
What is a Geomagnetic Storm and what are its effects? | Geomagnetic Storm of 1859
What is a Geomagnetic Storm and what are its effects? | Geomagnetic Storm of 1859

Geomagnetic Storm: A powerful geomagnetic storm is likely to hit the earth today, the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) of NOAA has confirmed. "A G1 (Minor) geomagnetic storm watch is in effect for 6-7 Apr in response to the anticipated arrival of the 3 Apr CME, which originated from a filament eruption that was centred near S22W30," the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in a statement.

What is a Geomagnetic Storm?

A geomagnetic storm is a disturbance in the Earth's magnetosphere. It is caused by a solar wind shock wave or cloud of the magnetic field that interacts with the Earth's magnetic field. They are rated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the weakest and 5 being the strongest.  

The US Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) defines a Geomagnetic Storm as ‘a major disturbance of Earth's magnetosphere that occurs when there is a very efficient exchange of energy from the solar wind into the space environment surrounding Earth.’

Effects of Geomagnetic Storm

When a geomagnetic storm hits the Earth, it can potentially damage the electronics in the satellites, disrupt the radio communication networks on Earth, and affect GPS signals and the electricity grid. Aurora is commonly visible at high latitudes during this time.

Geomagnetic storms can also lead to voltage disruptions leading to power outages, changes in soil voltage that enhance corrosion in oil pipelines, disruption in cellular communications networks, exposure to elevated levels of radiation, and reductions in flights with polar routes.

Geomagnetic Storm 1859

The largest geomagnetic storms are linked to Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) and the geomagnetic storm of 1859, also called the Carrington storm, was the largest geomagnetic storm ever recorded. It was marked by an intense brightening of auroras and reports of telegraph systems malfunctioning, electrocuting operators.

Coronal Mass Ejection (CME): It is among the biggest eruptions from the surface of the Sun and contains a billion tons of matter accelerated to several million miles per hour into space. It runs through the interplanetary medium and has the potential to impact anything that comes in its path, be it a planet or spacecraft. 

The latest Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) comes weeks after an eruption at AR2929, producing a powerful M5-class solar flare that caused a shortwave radio blackout around the Indian Ocean.

Geomagnetic storm between February 9 and 10

As informed by the Center of Excellence in Space Sciences (CESS), the Earth will be impacted by a moderate geomagnetic storm between February 9 and 10. However, the impact is unlikely to be very hazardous.

This comes after a filament eruption was noted on the Sun south of the disk centre on February 6. On February 3, the Earth was hit by a similar geomagnetic storm.

Geomagnetic storm on February 3

A minor geomagnetic storm hit Earth on February 3 after a powerful eruption took place on the Sun’s surface on January 30 by an M1-class solar flare. The explosion at the AR2936 region released a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) directed towards Earth. The said region is so huge that the Earth can fit into it. 

As a result of the said storm, Elon Musk's Starlink has lost dozens of satellites a day after they were launched on February 3. 

"(Rocket) Falcon 9’s second stage deployed the satellites into their intended orbit, with a perigee of approximately 210 km above Earth, and each satellite achieved controlled flight. Unfortunately, the satellites deployed on Thursday (February 3) were significantly impacted by a geomagnetic storm on February 4," read a statement by Starlink. 

Also Read | Why is Earth's magnetic field weakening and what does it mean?

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