Severe solar storm may disrupt utilities

2015-03-17 21:08
This false-colour image shows a solar flare erupting from the sun. (Nasa, AP)

This false-colour image shows a solar flare erupting from the sun. (Nasa, AP)

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Miami - A pair of solar eruptions over the weekend have unleashed a severe geomagnetic storm that could disrupt power and communications on Earth, US officials said on Tuesday.

The storm could grow into a G4 on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scale of one to five, with five being the worst.

"Possible widespread voltage control problems and some protective systems may mistakenly trip out key assets from the power grid," NOAA said in a space weather alert describing the storm.

High frequency radio may be sporadic or blacked out for hours, and satellite navigation systems may be "degraded or inoperable for hours," the federal agency added.

US residents as far south as Alabama and northern California could be able to see the resulting aurora - known as the Northern Lights - from the magnetic storm.

While Earth is protected by its magnetic shield, satellites in low Earth orbit may experience increased drag "and tracking and orientation problems may occur," NOAA said.

The storm has not caused risky radiation levels for astronauts aboard the International Space Station, said Nasa spokesperson Dan Huot.

"There is no impact to crew or operations at this time," Huot said in an e-mail to AFP.

"The geomagnetic K-Index condition does not directly increase crew exposure to ionizing radiation but our Space Radiation Analysis Group continues to closely monitor such events."

NOAA said the geomagnetic storm resulted from "two significant eruptions from the sun's corona that occurred early on Sunday, 15 March."

Read more on:    noaa  |  iss

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