Geomagnetic storm watches in effect due to ‘coronal hole’: How it could impact Earth this week
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(WGHP) — A strong geomagnetic storm caused by the sun could impact Earth later this week, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center said Tuesday that it is monitoring the sun and solar winds following a series of coronal mass ejections that began Sunday.

Space weather forecasters have predicted a strong geomagnetic storm for late Thursday and a moderate geomagnetic storm on Friday, prompting geomagnetic storm watches.

Forecasters are monitoring a “small, but compact and magnetically complex grouping” designated as Region 3078. The region produced frequent flares early Tuesday morning, according to NOAA. Flares are still possible from Region 3078, but recent imagery indicated possible signs of weakening and potential decay. 

Forecasters continue to monitor NOAA’s DSCOVR satellite and its real-time solar winds for signs of the arrival and strength of the coronal mass ejections. 

NOAA reports that despite the number of coronal mass ejections, “most are expected to have little to no impact at Earth” as they are expected to “pass ahead or south of Earth’s orbit.”

Earlier this month, NOAA noted a coronal hole in the sun’s atmosphere could trigger a geomagnetic storm.

Geomagnetic storms can impact infrastructure in near-Earth orbit and on the surface, potentially disrupting communications, the electric power grid, navigation, radio and satellites.  

Coronal holes are “cooler, less dense regions than the surrounding plasma and are regions of open, unipolar magnetic fields,” NOAA explains. “This open, magnetic field line structure allows the solar wind to escape more readily into space, resulting in streams of relatively fast solar wind.”

While some headlines make the occurrence sound like a doomsday-inducing hole in the sun, Rob Steenburgh of NOAA’s Space Weather Forecast office told Nexstar, “They happen all the time and are no cause for alarm.”

Minor geomagnetic storms may cause weak fluctuations in the power grid, impact satellite operations on spacecraft, and make aurora displays in the sky visible at high latitudes, such as in parts of Michigan and Maine.

Auroras for this week’s storm may be visible if the weather conditions are favorable as far south as Pennsylvania, Iowa, and portions of Oregon. Check NOAA’s latest aurora forecast here. 

The Space Weather Prediction Center will issue additional warnings related to this week’s storm if necessary, NOAA said Tuesday.

While the solar cycle is not yet at its peak, NASA said activity has already surpassed predictions. Solar flares and eruptions will likely increase from now until 2025 as we reach “solar maximum,” writes Nicola Fox, the director of NASA’s heliophysics division.

Yet experts say there’s no need to fear a doomsday scenario.

“Some people worry that a gigantic ‘killer solar flare’ could hurl enough energy to destroy Earth, but this is not actually possible,” NASA explains.

Plus, solar cycles repeat every 11 years. That means anyone over the age of 11 has already lived through a solar maximum (and probably didn’t notice its occurrence).

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