Solar storms slam Earth, more on the way

"This timing bodes well for aurora watchers in North America," SWPC forecasters said.

By Brooks Hays
Solar storms slam Earth, more on the way
Geomagnetic storming reaches G4 (severe) levels. Image by NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center

WASHINGTON, June 23 (UPI) -- The sizable solar storm that reached Earth on Monday continues to pepper the planet's magnetic field, and forecasters say they have the potential to disrupt power grids and GPS systems.

And there are more on the way, meaning stargazers will have a few days to catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis (or northern lights).


"Solar wind conditions remain highly favorable for continued Strong Geomagnetic storming, with both fast solar wind and strong magnetic fields," NOAA officials wrote in a forecast update. "Aurora watchers in North America, especially northern tier states of the US, should stay alert."

The storm's solar winds -- buoyed by a solar flare released Sunday -- have continued to bombard Earth, leading officials at NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center to categorize the storm as a G4 level, or severe, geomagnetic storm.

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The unusually intense aurora was seen Monday from space as the storm first arrived. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, currently aboard the International Space Station, posted a series of photos showcasing the glowing interactions between solar radiation and Earth's magnetic field.

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The most intense solar storms tend to be red, with less intense winds resulting in blues and greens.

As of Tuesday, no significant communications disruptions had been reported. It's likely local power grids have witnessed minor current fluctuations as a result of the radiation, but modern electrical systems are designed to withstand such circumstances.

Another flare was launched from the solar surface on Monday, sending out another wave of radiation. Those storming solar winds are expected to arrive late Wednesday and last through Thursday.

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"This timing bodes well for aurora watchers in North America," SWPC forecasters wrote in a recent update.

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