Recent Space Weather Activity and More on the Way

As if the heat wasn’t enough, here is some information on some solar activity headed our way.

One potential impact besides communications is the possible impact of solar activity on utilities.  Many precautions and regulators are put in place to help prevent against these sorts of things, however, given the current heat wave we are in, even an isolated outage would be an issue.

Event:

  • A trio of significant active regions produced a series of radio blackout (solar flare) events in the past few days.
  • To date, three radio blackouts reaching the R2 (Moderate) level have been observed.  Earth-directed coronal mass ejections have been associated with each of the biggest radio blackout events on August 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.
  • Solar radiation enhancements have also occurred in conjunction with each of these events, with the solar radiation storm event threshold being exceeded to reach the S1 (Minor) level in conjunction with the August 4th event.
  • The radio blackout events, as observed by NOAA’s GOES satellite are shown in the image on the left below (real-time image also available at: http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/rt_plots/xray_5m.html).  The solar radiation storm, as observed by NOAA’s GOES satellite, is shown in the image on the right below (real-time image also available at: http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/rt_plots/pro_3d.html).
  • Three coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are currently en route to Earth, with the commencement of geomagnetic storming expected early to mid-day on August 5th with the arrival of the CMEs associated with the August 2nd and 3rd events.
  • The third of the string, seemingly the fastest CME, may catch up with the first two in the next 12-18 hours, compressing the plasma and enhancing the embedded magnetic field. Storming levels are expected to attain G3 (Strong) conditions.  The current Solar Radiation Storm may experience a kick with the shocks, and attain S2 (Moderate) thresholds.
  • Some level of geomagnetic disturbance is expected to continue through August 7th as the series of CMEs affect the Earth.  Continued activity is likely from these regions as they continue to rotate off the visible solar disk over the next 7 days.  The Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) will continue to monitor this event as it unfolds.

Impacts:

  • Significant impacts resulting in difficulty communicating with aircraft en route via HF communication have reported over both the Pacific and Atlantic sectors over the last 72 hours.
  • Polar HF communications, critical to commercial airline operations, have been impacted, but as yet conditions are not of a magnitude to cause significant changes to normal operations there. Carriers are closely watching the current activity, to act promptly if conditions intensify.

Space Weather Prediction Center products Issued:

  • Multiple Radio Blackout Alerts issued in conjunction with each significant solar flare.
  • Geomagnetic Storm Watch for August 5th issued at 12:48 am EDT on August 3
  • Solar Radiation Storm Warning issued at 1:03 am EDT on August 4
  • Solar Radiation Storm Alert issued at 2:56 am EDT on August 4
  • Energetic Solar Radiation Storm Warning issued at 12:59 am EDT on August 4
  • Energetic Solar Radiation Storm Alert issued at 1:30 am EDT on August 4

External SWPC Coordination:

  • Nominal customer notifications occurred upon product issuance.
  • Coordination has been held with FEMA to promote situational awareness.
  • Up to date information on current conditions is available at the following URL:

http://www.spaceweather.gov/

The information in this report was provided by the National Weather Service Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado and Keith Stellman, NWS Shreveport.

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