May 2024 solar storms

Last updated

May 2024 solar storms
VIIRS Aurora Borealis under North Pole.jpg
VIIRS image showing the aurora borealis over the Northern Hemisphere on May 10–11.
Type Geomagnetic storm
Formed10 May 2024 (2024-05-10)
Dissipated13 May 2024 (2024-05-13)
Areas affectedWorldwide

Peak Dst index of −412 nT

The solar storms of May 2024 were a series of powerful solar storms with extreme solar flares and geomagnetic storm components that occurred from 10–13 May 2024 during solar cycle 25. The geomagnetic storm was the most powerful to affect Earth since October 2003, and produced aurorae at far lower latitudes than usual in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. [1] [2]

Contents

Solar flares and coronal mass ejections

Sunspots 512 20240510.jpg
The Sun's photosphere observed in visible light on 10 May. The sunspot group associated with AR3664 is present on the Sun's western limb. The comparative sizes of Earth and Jupiter are shown to scale.
The Sun's corona observed in extreme ultraviolet (131 Å) on 8 May. AR3664, located at center disk, produced multiple flares during this time.

On 8 May 2024, a solar active region which had been assigned the NOAA region number 13664 (AR3664) produced an X1.0-class and multiple M-class solar flares and launched several coronal mass ejections (CMEs) toward Earth. [3] On 9 May, the active region produced an X2.25- and X1.12-class flare each associated with a full-halo CME. On 10 May, the region produced an X3.98-class flare, and on 11 May at 01:23 UTC it produced another X-class flare of magnitude 5.4–5.7 with another asymmetrical full-halo CME. [4] [5] [6] The region also caused an S1 solar radiation storm with spikes reaching S2. [7] On 14 May, as the most active region 3664 rotated beyond the sun's western limb, the strongest flare occurred, an X8.7, causing level R3 (strong) radio blackouts. [8]

Geomagnetic storm

Values of the three-hour Kp-index from 10-14 May 2024 10-14May2024KpIndex.png
Values of the three-hour Kp-index from 10–14 May 2024

As a result of the interplanetary magnetic field reaching a magnitude of 73  nT (nanotesla), with the component along Earth's magnetic axis oriented south reaching as much as −50  nT , the moderately high solar wind density, and the solar wind speed reaching 750–800 km/s (470–500 mi/s) between 11–12 May (UTC time), the event was classified as a G5-class geomagnetic storm (Kp = 9), making it the most intense storm since the 2003 Halloween solar storms. [9] [10] Several other CMEs were expected to reach Earth on 11 and 12 May. [11]

Comparison to other geomagnetic storms

The disturbance storm time index (Dst index) is a measure in the context of space weather. A negative Dst index means that Earth's magnetic field is weakened. [12] This is particularly the case during solar storms, with a higher negative Dst index indicating a stronger solar storm.

The 2003 Halloween solar storms had a peak Dst index of −383 nT, although a second storm on 20 November 2003 reached −422 nT while not reaching G5-class. [13] [14] The March 1989 geomagnetic storm had a peak Dst index of −589 nT, [15] while the May 1921 geomagnetic storm has been estimated to have had a peak Dst index of −907±132 nT. Estimates for the peak Dst index of the Carrington Event superstorm of 1859 are between −800 nT and −1750 nT. [16]

The May 2024 solar storms reached a peak Dst index of −412 nT on 11 May. [17]

Aurora sightings

Aurora Borealis - Canary Islands (53714058285).jpg
2024-05-10, 22-25 Aurora, Parey.jpg
May 2024 aurora over Hawke's Bay.jpg
Aurora Borealis over Vancouver BC.jpg
2024-05-11 Aurora Cannon Falls, MN 3 of 7.jpg
All five of Clark's aurora classifications were documented: glows, patches, arcs, rays, and coronas. [18] Top left: Glow aurora seen in Gran Canaria, Spain. Top right: Patch aurora seen in Elbe-Parey, Germany. Middle left: Arc aurora seen in Ongaonga, New Zealand. Middle right: Rays over an arc aurora seen in Vancouver, Canada. Bottom: Coronal aurora seen in Cannon Falls, Minnesota.
Comparison between visible light (left) and near infrared light (right) of the aurora over Pulsnitz, Germany.
Timelapse of the aurora borealis near Calgary, Alberta. Pink aurora is produced by nitrogen molecules, while green aurora is produced by oxygen molecules, at altitudes of 100 to 300 km. [19]

Three CMEs from 8 May reached Earth on 10 May 2024, causing severe to extreme geomagnetic storms with bright and very long-lasting aurorae.

In Asia, aurorae could be seen from Cyprus, [20] Japan, [21] the remote village of Hanle in northern India, [22] and near the cities of Urumqi and Beijing in China. [23] [24]

In Europe, aurorae were seen from as far south as Portugal, [25] and Spain. [26] Aurorae were also visible in Algeria and the Canary Islands in Africa. [27] [28]

In North America, aurorae were seen as far south as the Florida Keys, [29] [30] [31] the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, [32] The Bahamas, [33] and Puerto Rico. [34] The aurora was also seen in Hawaii. [35]

In Australia, aurorae were seen as far north as Townsville and Mackay in Queensland, [36] [37] while in the rest of the Southern Hemisphere aurorae were seen in New Zealand, [38] Chile, Argentina, [39] South Africa, [40] and as far north as Uruguay, southern Brazil, [41] and Namibia. [40]

Camera technology has improved since the last G5-class geomagnetic storm in 2003, with even standard cell phone cameras having enough sensitivity to pick up the colours of an aurora. [42] Consequently, images of aurorae were spread widely across social media, with much public excitement being generated during the event. [43] The ability to document aurorae at such a wide scale has provided a large opportunity to learn more about the phenomenon. [42]

Impact

The storm negatively affected ground-based broadcasting and two-way radio communications, especially on the HF band and to a lesser extent, the VHF and UHF bands, because it increased the density of D layer of the ionosphere, causing absorption and thus interfered with propagation. [44] [45]

In Canada, power companies BC Hydro and Hydro-Québec stated that they had prepared for the storm, and monitored it as its ejecta struck Earth on 10–11 May. Unlike in 1989 where a previous solar storm caused a nine-hour long power outage in Québec, no outages were reported as a result of the storm's effects. [46] [47]

In New Zealand, Transpower declared a grid emergency, and took some transmission lines out of service as a precaution against the storm. [48]

In the United States, telecommunications companies AT&T and T-Mobile stated that they were prepared to respond to disruptions in their networks, but it was predicted that significant impacts to cell service were unlikely because the networks rely on different frequencies than the HF bands affected by the solar storm. [49] While the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that there were power grid irregularities and degradation in GPS and high-frequency radio communications, [50] both the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the United States Department of Energy reported no significant impacts to the population. [51]

Agricultural users of John Deere RTK GPS equipment reported significantly degraded positional accuracy during the geomagnetic storm. As the GPS receivers are used to guide tractors in precision agriculture, certain agricultural workers were forced to suspend planting activities entirely. [52] [53]

University of Victoria researchers discovered that the geomagnetic storm triggered compasses in sub-sea observatories deployed as deep as 2.7 km under the ocean’s surface. [54]

Some aerial drone users flying during the storm experienced unusual behavior, including difficulty maintaining a stable hover, disruption of GPS signals, and in some cases a sudden loss of control which resulted in a crash. [55] [56] Drones rely on GPS and magnetic signals to maintain position during flight, which are affected by geomagnetic activity.

At 00:19 UTC on 13 May, the GOES-16 satellite, the primary operational geostationary weather satellite in the GOES East position, providing a view centered on the Americas, stopped transmitting all data. The transmission of data resumed nearly 2 hours later at 02:00 UTC. [57] There was a second loss of data transmission shortly after, lasting 11 minutes from 03:19 UTC to 03:30 UTC. [58]

Other impacts to satellite services include Starlink's fleet of low-orbiting satellites, which experienced degraded service because of the intensity of the solar storms, but remained operational. [59] [60]

Aurorae were visible in many regions around the world, and far from the magnetic poles. These figures demonstrate the spread of the aurorae on the night of 10 and 11 May. Captions indicate geographic latitude (GLAT) first, and magnetic latitude (MLAT) second, using the quasi-dipole latitude of IGRF-13 model.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aurora</span> Natural luminous atmospheric effect observed chiefly at high latitudes

An aurora , also commonly known as the northern lights or southern lights, is a natural light display in Earth's sky, predominantly seen in high-latitude regions. Auroras display dynamic patterns of brilliant lights that appear as curtains, rays, spirals, or dynamic flickers covering the entire sky.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Solar flare</span> Eruption of electromagnetic radiation

A solar flare is a relatively intense, localized emission of electromagnetic radiation in the Sun's atmosphere. Flares occur in active regions and are often, but not always, accompanied by coronal mass ejections, solar particle events, and other eruptive solar phenomena. The occurrence of solar flares varies with the 11-year solar cycle.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Space weather</span> Branch of space physics and aeronomy

Space weather is a branch of space physics and aeronomy, or heliophysics, concerned with the varying conditions within the Solar System and its heliosphere. This includes the effects of the solar wind, especially on the Earth's magnetosphere, ionosphere, thermosphere, and exosphere. Though physically distinct, space weather is analogous to the terrestrial weather of Earth's atmosphere. The term "space weather" was first used in the 1950s and popularized in the 1990s. Later, it prompted research into "space climate", the large-scale and long-term patterns of space weather.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Geomagnetic storm</span> Disturbance of the Earths magnetosphere

A geomagnetic storm, also known as a magnetic storm, is a temporary disturbance of the Earth's magnetosphere caused by a solar wind shock wave.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Coronal mass ejection</span> Ejecta from the Suns corona

A coronal mass ejection (CME) is a significant ejection of magnetic field and accompanying plasma mass from the Sun's corona into the heliosphere. CMEs are often associated with solar flares and other forms of solar activity, but a broadly accepted theoretical understanding of these relationships has not been established.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Coronal hole</span> Cool, tenuous region of the Suns corona

A coronal hole is a temporary region of relatively cool, less dense plasma in the solar corona where the Sun's magnetic field extends into interplanetary space as an open field. Compared to the corona's usual closed magnetic field that arches between regions of opposite magnetic polarity, the open magnetic field of a coronal hole allows solar wind to escape into space at a much quicker rate. This results in decreased temperature and density of the plasma at the site of a coronal hole, as well as an increased speed in the average solar wind measured in interplanetary space. If streams of high-speed solar wind from coronal holes encounter the Earth, they can cause major displays of aurorae. Near solar minimum, when activity such as coronal mass ejections is less frequent, such streams are the main cause of geomagnetic storms and associated aurorae.

Geomagnetically induced currents (GIC) are electrical currents induced at the Earth's surface by rapid changes in the geomagnetic field caused by space weather events. GICs can affect the normal operation of long electrical conductor systems such as electric transmission grids and buried pipelines. The geomagnetic disturbances which induce GICs include geomagnetic storms and substorms where the most severe disturbances occur at high geomagnetic latitudes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Solar cycle 24</span> Solar activity from December 2008 to December 2019

Solar cycle 24 is the most recently completed solar cycle, the 24th since 1755, when extensive recording of solar sunspot activity began. It began in December 2008 with a minimum smoothed sunspot number of 2.2, and ended in December 2019. Activity was minimal until early 2010. It reached its maximum in April 2014 with a 23 months smoothed sunspot number of 81.8. This maximum value was substantially lower than other recent solar cycles, down to a level which had not been seen since cycles 12 to 15 (1878-1923).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Carrington Event</span> Geomagnetic storm in 1859

The Carrington Event was the most intense geomagnetic storm in recorded history, peaking from 1–2 September 1859 during solar cycle 10. It created strong auroral displays that were reported globally and caused sparking and even fires in multiple telegraph stations. The geomagnetic storm was most likely the result of a coronal mass ejection (CME) from the Sun colliding with Earth's magnetosphere.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">March 1989 geomagnetic storm</span> An exceptionally powerful geomagnetic storm that struck the Earth on March 13, 1989

The March 1989 geomagnetic storm occurred as part of severe to extreme solar storms during early to mid March 1989, the most notable being a geomagnetic storm that struck Earth on March 13. This geomagnetic storm caused a nine-hour outage of Hydro-Québec's electricity transmission system. The onset time was exceptionally rapid. Other historically significant solar storms occurred later in 1989, during a very active period of solar cycle 22.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Solar cycle 22</span> Solar activity from September 1986 to August 1996

Solar cycle 22 was the 22nd solar cycle since 1755, when extensive recording of solar sunspot activity began. The solar cycle lasted 9.9 years, beginning in September 1986 and ending in August 1996. The maximum smoothed sunspot number observed during the solar cycle was 212.5, and the starting minimum was 13.5. During the minimum transit from solar cycle 22 to 23, there were a total of 309 days with no sunspots.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Solar cycle 23</span> Solar activity from August 1996 to December 2008

Solar cycle 23 was the 23rd solar cycle since 1755, when extensive recording of solar sunspot activity began. The solar cycle lasted 12.3 years, beginning in August 1996 and ending in December 2008. The maximum smoothed sunspot number observed during the solar cycle was 180.3, and the starting minimum was 11.2. During the minimum transit from solar cycle 23 to 24, there were a total of 817 days with no sunspots. Compared to the last several solar cycles, it was fairly average in terms of activity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">May 1921 geomagnetic storm</span> An exceptionally powerful geomagnetic storm that struck the Earth from 13-15 May 1921

The three-day May 1921 geomagnetic storm, also known as the New York Railroad Storm, was caused by the impact of an extraordinarily powerful coronal mass ejection on Earth's magnetosphere. It occurred on 13–15 May as part of solar cycle 15, and was the most intense geomagnetic storm of the 20th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bastille Day solar storm</span> Solar storm on 14-16 July 2000

The Bastille Day solar storm was a powerful solar storm on 14-16 July 2000 during the solar maximum of solar cycle 23. The storm began on the national day of France, Bastille Day. It involved a solar flare, a solar particle event, and a coronal mass ejection which caused a severe geomagnetic storm.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2003 Halloween solar storms</span> Series of intense solar storms in 2003

The Halloween solar storms were a series of solar storms involving solar flares and coronal mass ejections that occurred from mid-October to early November 2003, peaking around October 28–29. This series of storms generated the largest solar flare ever recorded by the GOES system, modeled as strong as X45.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Solar cycle 25</span> Solar activity from 2019 to about 2030

Solar cycle 25 is the current solar cycle, the 25th since 1755, when extensive recording of solar sunspot activity began. It began in December 2019 with a minimum smoothed sunspot number of 1.8. It is expected to continue until about 2030.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Solar phenomena</span> Natural phenomena within the Suns atmosphere

Solar phenomena are natural phenomena which occur within the atmosphere of the Sun. They take many forms, including solar wind, radio wave flux, solar flares, coronal mass ejections, coronal heating and sunspots.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">August 1972 solar storms</span> Solar storms during solar cycle 20

The solar storms of August 1972 were a historically powerful series of solar storms with intense to extreme solar flare, solar particle event, and geomagnetic storm components in early August 1972, during solar cycle 20. The storm caused widespread electric‐ and communication‐grid disturbances through large portions of North America as well as satellite disruptions. On 4 August 1972 the storm caused the accidental detonation of numerous U.S. naval mines near Haiphong, North Vietnam. The coronal mass ejection (CME)'s transit time from the Sun to the Earth is the fastest ever recorded.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Space hurricane</span> Solar windstorm

A space hurricane is a huge, funnel-like, spiral geomagnetic storm that occurs above the polar Ionosphere of Earth, during extremely quiet conditions. They are related to the aurora borealis phenomenon, as the electron precipitation from the storm's funnel produces gigantic, cyclone-shaped auroras. Scientists believe that they occur in the polar regions of planets with magnetic fields.

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