Massive Geomagnetic Storm to hit Earth: What is solar storm and it's effects on satellites, power grids, GPS and humans?

In the article below one can know all about the cause and the effect of the massive Solar Storm or geomagnetic storm that is about to hit the Earth today. Know about its effect on earth's satellites, its outer atmosphere, GPS, Electric grids and more. Also, know how do such solar storms affect the humans
Updated: Nov 1, 2021 13:59 IST
What is Geomagnetic / Solar Storm
What is Geomagnetic / Solar Storm

The Earth is going to be hit by a solar storm or also called geomagnetic storm today or tomorrow as per NASA. However the effects of solar storm have already started showing on the scales. This solar storm can affect the Earth's magnetic field, its weather, the satellites and much more. Take a look at the tweet made by Space Weather Organization below to know the changes that have already been registered. 

Also know how solar storm originates, what causes it and why does it affect the satellite and GPS system on Earth here.  First go through the tweets shared by various organizations here. 

What is a solar storm?

A solar storm occurs when the sun emits huge amounts of energy in the form of solar flares and coronal mass ejections. This term is used as atmospheric effects are felt on Earth even after they occur on the Sun which is far away from it. 

The current storm is approaching the Earth at a speed of 1.6 million kilometres per hour as per NASA's update. 

The solar flare was detected on July 3, 2021 from the Sun's equatorial hole in the atmosphere. The solar flares can travel at the maximum speed of 500 km/sec. Bigger geomagnetic storms may not be observed due to this level of solar flares, however, small geomagnetic unrests could be observed on the earth as well. These could light high latitude auroras on Earth. 

Geomagnetic storm: Why is it called so?

A solar storm is called a geomagnetic storm as it causes major disturbances in the Earth's magnetosphere. It occurs when there is efficient exchange of energy from the solar wind into the space environment surrounding Earth. 

The storm is a result of changes in currents, plasmas that are produced by the solar winds. But to maintain this, the solar winds are required to sustain high speeds for a longer duration. This way the energy of the wind is transferred to the Earth's magnetic field.

These coronal mass ejections can take days to reach the Earth after being ejected from the sun. On July 3, such a massive storm caused a radio blackout over the Atlantic. 

Also read| Coco Island: Geography, History and Strategic Significance here

What is a solar flare?

Solar flares are huge explosions on the surface of the Sun. These release energy and light and high speed charged particles into space. NASA says the biggest of such flares can be called X Class Flares. The smallest flare are called A Class Flare followed by B, C, M and X. This time an X Class flare is about to hit our planet. These  are seen as bright areas on the sun and they can last from minutes to hours.

When Coronal Mass Ejections or CME's hit the Earth, they can cause geomagnetic storms that disrupt satellites and electrical power grids.The CMEs are high masses of charged plasma that travel millions of kilometres per hour to reach Earth. They are released usually along with solar flares. 

How does Solar Storm affect Earth and Humankind?

As per NASA, the solar flares reach and impact Earth only when they occur on the side of the sun facing Earth. 

As flares are constituted by photons, they can travel out directly from their site.Thus if we can see the flare, we could be impacted by it.

solar flares impacting earth

The points mentioned below state the impact of the solar storm on Earth:

  1. Effective and high electrical currents that come along the Earth’s surface at the time of auroral events disrupt electric power grids. 
  2. They also contribute towards the corrosion of oil and gas pipelines. 
  3. There are various changes in the ionosphere during geomagnetic storms. This interferes with high-frequency radio communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation on Earth as well.
  4. The radio communications are in a position to be compromised for commercial airliners on transpolar routes at the time of polar cap absorption events that are a result of solar protons.
  5. Temporary operational anomalies can be caused when the exposure of spacecraft is done to the energy particles during such events.
  6. The solar flares cannot kill people for sure but can cause damage to their health to a level.

This was the complete information on Geo storm. The candidates preparing for UPSC Civil Services examination, SSC CGL or Bank PO exams can expect questions from this particular topic. 

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FAQ

Can solar storm kill you?

Solar storms can not necessarily kill humans when exposed but can cause various skin and health issues to them which can turn dangerous.

What happens when solar storms hit Earth?

The charged particles interfere with the Earth's magnetic field and affect everything linked with it, specially GPS, power grids etc.

When does Solar storm occur?

Solar storms occur when the sun emits large amount of energy bursts from its atmosphere in the form of solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs)

What is the effect of solar storms on humans?

Solar storms can affect humans as the radiations produced are harmful to human skin and eyes in particular.
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