Geomagnetic storms are huge explosions of plasma that stem from solar activity and it could one day produce an extremly powerful geomagnetic storm that strikes Earth, showing no mercy to our planet.
Different kinds of extreme and unexpected violent activities take place on the Sun’s surface and cause powerful geomagnetic storms throughout the year.
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Should we be worried about these geomagnetic storms that are driven by solar activity? Many experts suggest that these geomagnetic storms pose a threat to Earth and we should prepare for the worst.
Geomagnetic storms are actually huge explosions of plasma that blasts off the Sun’s corona, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and produce powerful storms that interact with the Earth’s magnetic field and cause temporarily fluctuations in communication systems. They may black out entire cities, disrupt GPS navigation and power grids and even impair satellites in orbit. And it could one day produce extremely powerful geomagnetic storm striking Earth with enormous power, leaving nothing but devastation.
“The possibility of an extreme CME causing a very powerful geomagnetic storm is real. There's considerable uncertainty to how frequent such storms are at the level where we worry about huge impacts on the power grid and the resulting impacts that a lack of electricity would have. Is it a one in 50, one in 100, or one in 1,000 year event? We just don't know.” Doug Biesecker from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center said in a statement.
The strongest recorded geomagnetic storm occurred in 1859. The storm, called Carrington Event, disrupted telegraph systems throughout the world and made Northern Lights visible in many parts of the world. Experts claim that if such a strong magnitude of geomagnetic storm hit the Earth today, it would wreck havoc on humans and devastate our entire technology and electronic devices from internet to communications to navigation systems.
So what we are doing to counteract this situation? A year ago, the U.S. government presented a set of strategies to improve monitoring and space weather forecasting systems and to better understand the solar activity.
“There was a National Space Weather Strategy published by the White House in October 2015. This and accompanying Action Plan specify what federal agencies and industry must do in the coming years to be prepared for not only forecasting an extreme event, but ensuring the nation is resilient to the impacts of such an extreme event.” Biesecker said.
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) in collaboration with Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) could improve understanding of solar activity and help make more accurate predictions about geomagnetic storms.
“SDO is giving us a clearer picture of solar active regions and erupting filaments. The high cadence and high resolution of SDO give forecasters the clearest evidence of how sunspots and active regions are evolving and to then assess their potential to produce solar flares.” Beisecker explained.
“SOHO was very much a game changer…This ushered in a revolution in forecasting, leaving to more concrete knowledge of CMEs, the drivers of geomagnetic activity. Previously one relied on proxies, such as erupting filaments or long duration solar flares, but these were at best about 70% reliable.”
Still, there is always a room for improvement, which can be fulfilled with more advanced technology. Many future projects are still awaiting implementation. If authorities proceed with these projects, they could also prove helpful in assessing solar activity and warning of any hazardous geomagnetic storm in future.
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