The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a stark warning that a G1 level geomagnetic storm, the least powerful kind (geomagnetic storms are ranked from 1-5, with intensity ranked lowest to highest) was upgraded to a G2 level storm. While G2 is considered a moderate geomagnetic storm, if it comes into contact with a satellite it could be catastrophic for communications networks across the globe and could even cause power outages if it makes direct contact.
But there is still double the trouble, as a G1 level warning is still in place for a storm that could hit tonight at 11pm, while another more powerful G2 storm could strike Earth tomorrow.
The storm came after several Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) erupted from the sun on November 1 and November 2, and pushed the storms in Earth’s direction.
A CME is a huge expulsion of plasma from the Sun’s outer layer, called the corona.
Piled together, CMEs contain strong magnetic fields and compressed plasmas that effectively spark up geomagnetic storms
If the charged particles reach our planet, they may also cause the spectacular Northern Lights to be put on full display.
The warning comes after a G3 level storm was expected to batter the Earth to bring a scare just in time for Halloween on October 31.
Luckily, the storm missed and power outages were avoided and radio communications remained in tact, which were real fears brought about by the warning.
But over the next two nights, the solar flares could cause power grid fluctuations with voltage alarms at higher latitudes.
There is one plus, though, as lucky viewers may be able to catch a stunning display of the Northern Lights that expectant spectators missed on Halloween.
NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) wrote on Twitter: “Yet another spectacular halo CME directed towards Earth.
“Let’s hope that this one will produce more impressive aurorae than the Halloween storm.”
While the expected storms are ranked low in intensity, geomagnetic storms have wreaked havoc in the past.
In 1989, a strong solar eruption shot so many electrically charged particles at Earth that the Canadian Province of Quebec lost power for nine hours.
And in the UK, what is known as the Carrington Event, the largest solar storm on record that battered Earth in 1859 struck British telegraph systems.
A storm of the same magnitude today would likely cause widespread blackouts and major disruption to global communications.