Sunspot causes geomagnetic storm

Added by on September 9, 2011

Sunspot 1283 / NOAA

The NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center reported on Friday that a geomagnetic storm is in progress, likely the result of a solar flare caused by sunspot 1283.

A geomagnetic storm is a temporary disturbance in the Earth’s magnetosphere caused by a stream of charged particles that interact with the Earth’s magnetic field. The current geomagnetic storm is likely the result of a coronal mass ejection (CME) that occurred on September 6. A CME can release billions of tons of matter at several million kilometres per hour.

A geomagnetic storm can cause radio blackouts which could last up to one hour. Technologies like cellular phones, WiFi networks, and wireless accessories all use radio waves and could experience disruptions.

The geomagnetic storm can also cause auroras in higher altitudes. Auroras are natural light displays caused by the collision of charged particles with atoms at high altitudes and are directed by the Earth’s magnetic field. Auroras typically occur between 10-20 degrees from the magnetic North pole within a 3-6 degree band, regardless of longitude.

A monitoring station is reported to have detected electrical ground currents, or stray voltage, as a result of the CMEs on September 6. An electrical ground current is stray voltage emanating from the ground, which is normally at neutral voltage – electrical ground currents are not dangerous to living things.

The geomagnetic storm is expected to last through September 10 and this could be the first of several storms since several CMEs were originally recorded on September 6.