Giant Solar Flare Targets Earth

Russ Steele

Image: An orbiting spacecraft called the Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this view of the sun about an hour before it launched an X-class solar flare. The purple coloring shows the strength of magnetic fields of the sun. (NASA/SDO/AIA)

Wired Online has some details:

A giant solar flare shot out of a sunspot Thursday, hitting Earth with a powerful burst of X-ray and ultraviolet radiation. Solar researchers expect a small geomagnetic storm to follow and strike Earth this weekend, causing minor satellite glitches and major northern lights shows.

At 12:11 p.m. EDT, the flare began unleashing about a billion hydrogen bombs’ worth of energy. Radiation temporarily jammed some radio frequencies for about an hour.

Right behind the flare is a belch of solar atmosphere called a coronal mass ejection, or CME, which is now traveling toward Earth at about 3.1 million mph. The resulting solar storm should start on Earth on Friday and conclude by Saturday’s end.

Spaceweather has an interactive graphic showing the the path of the CME as it strikes the Earth HERE.  According to a forecast track prepared by analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab, the CME will hit Earth on July 14th around 10:20 UT (+/- 7 hours) and could spark strong geomagnetic storms.


The UV pulse partially ionized Earth’s upper atmosphere, disturbing the normal propagation of radio signals around the planet. Monitoring stations in Norway and Ireland recorded the sudden ionospheric disturbance.

The solar protons accelerated by the blast are swarming around Earth. The radiation storm  ranks “S1” on NOAA space weather scales, which means it poses no serious threat to satellites or astronauts. However, there is always the threat of more powerful events, with a more signifiant out come, with a powerful CME pealing off the protective magnetic shield. exposing satellites, power grids and other sensitive electronic equipment.

National Geographic had an article on the history of the these more powerful radiation storms and my friend George Rebane did some Bayesian Analysis on the history of the more powerful events and concluded we would be more vulnerable in Solar Cycle 25, estimated to peak around 2022 “The probability is 0.967 that in the next sunspot cycle we will have an ‘extreme storm’ as defined in the . . . data you sent.” Other scientist predict that we have a 1-8 chance of a more powerful event by 2020.

The question is not if we are going to have more violent solar storms, but when will they arrive. More from Nat Geo HERE.

Cross Posted at The Next Grand Minimum


About Russ Steele
Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.

8 Responses to Giant Solar Flare Targets Earth

  1. Sean says:

    What I am wondering is where the crazy weather will be that often follows these events. Since the flare occured in the southern hemisphere of the sun, I’d expect something wild to happen in Australia, souther Africa or South America. The weather news should be interesting next week.

  2. The news from the Southern Hemisphere is already very interesting, they are having a very intense cold, snowy fall with early killing frosts. This might make it even more intense.

    • Russ, I think you have it backwards, it might make it less intense… CME hits, sweeping away GCR flux, reducing cloud condensation nuclei.

      The #2 footnote is the Svensmark 2009 paper on the subject.

      • Sean says:

        The sun does more than affect the cosmic rays hitting the earth. It also seems to do a number on the height of the thermosphere and causes some straing goings on in the polar vortex. I wouldn’t be suprised if the sudden flux of solar wind doesn’t cause high pressure at the poles leading to strong polar flow and odd changes to the jet stream. If that happens, the weather will get extreme somewhere.

      • Of course, but then there are already extremes somewhere; and by looking for an extreme event to blame on the CME, we’d be doing the same thing that Warmists do with every heat wave.

  3. Sean,

    I agree. Stay tuned!

  4. By the way, the Svensmark paper found the dip in cloud cover and moisture was about six says after the CME hits. If that’s today, the corresponding minimum might be expected sometime around July 20.

    • Sean says:

      Over at WUWT there is an atmospheric pressure page. The series of images that make up the pressure animation are posted about 3 days after the fact but they have about a months worth of data in the animation. If you look at the animation, you’ll notice that the pressure differentials get much more intense after the CME hit last Saturday the 14th and it’s strongest in the southern hemisphere.
      I am not trying to challenge Svensmark, just pointing out that a lot of weird things happen in the atmosphere when things suddenly change on the sun, particularly at the poles.

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