The US Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) has issued a geomagnetic storm watch for February 27 and February 28. The solar storm forecast comes after a giant hole split the Sun’s corona wide open. The Sun’s corona is an outer layer of energised gas known as plasma, extending millions of miles into space. The corona traps charged particles escaping the Sun but occasionally these are released through tears known as coronal holes.
Today, a gaping wound in the Sun’s corona has resulted in a minor geomagnetic storm and its associated effects.
The SWPC said: “A G1 Minor geomagnetic storm watch is in effect for February 27 and February 28 due to anticipated effects associated with a coronal hole high speed stream.”
On the three-day forecast track, increased solar wind activity is expected to continue until Thursday, February 28.
The “elevated solar wind speed” is predicted to continue into Friday, March 1, before it weakens.
However, the SWPC does not forecast minor or greater solar radiation storms to develop over Earth this week.
Geomagnetic storms are typically associated with a wide range of devastating effects from radio communication blackouts to fluctuations in the power grid.
Minor G1 storms can result in “minor impacts” on satellite operations, weak power grid fluctuations and can affect migratory animals.
Another side effect of geomagnetic storms is the presence of auroras around the north and south pole – mesmerising streams of colourful and excited gas particles in the atmosphere.
Extreme G5 storms have the power to cause widespread chaos by collapsing entire power grids, blocking out radio signals and severely disrupting spacecraft and satellites.
Past G5 storms have also been known to produce aurora lights as far south as Texas and Florida in the US.
The SWPC said: “While the storms create beautiful aurora, they also can disrupt navigation systems such as the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and create harmful geomagnetic induced currents (GICs) in the power grid and pipelines.”
Today, the effects of the G1 storm will be negligible if not non-existent.
Forecasters expect northern aurora effects to extend down across Canada and just brush against the northernmost US states.
Radio communication should also remain normal over the next three days.
The SWPC said: “No R1 Minor or greater radio blackouts are expected.
“No significant active region flare activity is forecast.”
Overall solar activity will remain at “very low levels” between February 27 and March 1.