Geomagnetic storm may disrupt power, but expand aurora viewing

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What to cognize astir terrible geomagnetic tempest

A uncommon terrible geomagnetic tempest ticker has been issued. Here's what to know. 01:09

A severe geomagnetic storm headed toward Earth has the imaginable to sound retired powerfulness and electronics this weekend, but it could besides bring a spectacular airy amusement from the aurora borealis arsenic acold southbound arsenic Alabama and Northern California.

After days of heightened star activity, NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center issued Thursday its archetypal ticker for a G4 storm — the second-strongest standing connected a scale from G1 to G5 — successful astir 20 years.

"Geomagnetic storms tin interaction infrastructure successful near-Earth orbit and connected Earth's surface, perchance disrupting communications, the electrical powerfulness grid, navigation, vigor and outer operations," NOAA said. "[The Space Weather Prediction Center] has notified the operators of these systems truthful they tin instrumentality protective action."

Risks to the powerfulness grid

A G4 geomagnetic tempest is considered "severe" and has the imaginable to origin wide voltage power problems to the powerfulness grid. According to NOAA, it could besides origin immoderate protective systems to "mistakenly travel retired cardinal assets from the grid."

These types of effects connected powerfulness systems were first noted successful 1940 and person been reported passim the years, with incidents including a powerfulness blackout successful 1958, instrumentality tripping and voltage stableness issues successful 1972 and a nine-hour blackout successful Canada successful 1989, according to NOAA.

The past clip determination was a G5 oregon "extreme" geomagnetic tempest was successful October 2003, erstwhile it caused powerfulness outages successful Sweden and damaged transformers successful South Africa.

Effect connected outer and vigor operations

As of Friday afternoon, NOAA had besides observed a mean star radiation tempest that could exposure radical successful high-flying craft to "elevated radiation risk" and could origin infrequent issues with outer operations. 

With a G4 storm, "satellite navigation could beryllium degraded for hours," it warns.

Radio blackouts person besides been detected with an R3 designation, meaning that the blackouts were "strong" connected a standard from R1 (minor) to R5 (extreme). At this level, wide blackouts of high-frequency vigor connection is expected, arsenic good arsenic nonaccomplishment of vigor contact, for astir an hr connected the sunlit broadside of Earth, arsenic low-frequency navigation signals diminution for astir an hour.

Expansion of bluish lights

The aforesaid improvement that causes these disruptions is besides liable for making the aurora borealis viewable successful places you usually can't spot them. 

"Earth's magnetic tract guides the electrons specified that the aurora forms 2 ovals astir centered astatine the magnetic poles," NOAA said. "During large geomagnetic storms these ovals grow distant from the poles specified that aurora tin beryllium seen implicit astir of the United States."

Vivid displays were disposable implicit parts of Europe and the U.K. connected Friday night.

Spring upwind  May 11th 2024 The aurora borealis, besides known arsenic the bluish lights, glow connected the skyline astatine St Mary's Lighthouse successful Whitley Bay connected England's Northeast Coast, May 10, 2024. Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

"If you hap to beryllium successful an country wherever it's acheronian and unreality escaped and comparatively unpolluted by light, you whitethorn get to spot a reasonably awesome aurora display," Rob Steenburgh, a abstraction idiosyncratic with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center, told reporters Friday. "and that's truly the acquisition from abstraction weather, is the aurora."

Allie Weintraub

Allie Weintraub is an exertion connected the maturation and engagement squad astatine CBS News. She has antecedently written and produced stories connected a scope of topics for outlets including ABC News, Inside Edition Digital and Courthouse News Service.

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