Saturday, July 14, 2012

Solar Blast Hits Earth; Geomagnetic Storm Begins

A sudden spike in the Planetary K Index, or K Index to 5 indicates that the anticipated solar flare with accompanying Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) has hit Earth.

The K index, measured every 3 hours, printed out this reading at 1:00 PM CDT. Now that the CME has made contact with Earth, it can be expected that weak power grid fluctuations, radio disruptions, and high latitude power issues may be reported from this geomagnetic storm.

This geomagnetic storm and accompanying troubles will last through the weekend before weakening off.


Who Could See Auroras This Weekend?

As a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) quickly advances towards Earth, the question lingering is who will be able to see the auroras from this? Let's look at a little background first.

The Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) rates geomagnetic storms like this one from G1 to G5, G1 being the weakest and G5 being strongest. According to the SWPC website on what the effects of each strength level are (link), G1 allows auroras to be seen as far south as Northern Michigan and Maine.

The SWPC is alerting everyone that this CME will be able to pose a geomagnetic strength of G1 to possibly G2. This means that the following places could see auroras in either G1 or G2.

G1: North Michigan and Maine can see auroras.

G2: Auroras can be observed roughly on the 55 latitude line, which includes New York and Idaho.

If I were to make a guess right now of who could see auroras as the CME passes, I would say the North Plains, Upper Midwest, northern New England, and the far Northwest. If the CME is stronger than expected, I could see parts of the Plains, Midwest and Northeast also seeing an aurora display.


CME Approaching Earth; Radio Disruptions Expected

The Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) that was emitted from the sun due to an X-Class flare is closing in on Earth, as the ACE spacecraft (1 million miles from Earth) that measures solar indices detected a significant spike in wind and temperature around 12:30 PM CDT this afternoon.

At this time, a geomagnetic storm of 'G1' strength is forecast to occur in the next 24 hours per the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC). 'G1' strength is defined by weak power grid fluctuations and changes in some migratory patterns of animals. The Space Weather Prediction Center does indicate that 'G2' solar storm strength is possible. This would show up as power issues among high latitude locations, as well as radio disruptions and potential issues to spacecraft orbit tracks.

No significant human health impact is likely from this geomagnetic storm. Any issues would likely be due to hospital patients losing access to some equipment due to potential power issues, but that is on the unlikely side.


Planetary K Index Rising; Solar Storm May Be Incoming

The Planetary K index, or just K index, has risen in the latest reading from 1 to roughly 2. This comes as the much talked-bout solar flare's Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) heads to Earth.

Model forecasts depicted the solar storm striking from around 6:00 AM CDT - 9:00 AM CDT, but there does appear to be a 7 hour window of 'wiggle room' for the storm to arrive. This latest bump in the K index may suggest that the storm could be upon us.

Each update on the K index is 3 hours apart, so the next update will be in the next 3 hours. If we are going by UTC time, and the first bar after the beginning of a day is the 0z reading, and each reading appears to be shown 2 hours after the measurement is taken, the next update could arrive just before 4:00 PM CDT. I have yet to confirm that, but based on how the image does use the update periods in UTC, the graph is most likely in UTC as well.


Apology Concerning the Recent Solar Flare

I owe everyone an apology for the coverage of the recent X-class flare and coronal mass ejection poised to hit Earth. I am not familiar with the deep-down work concerning how the sun works. The posts I have issued came from a frantic rush to find links with images and models, and, looking back, that is not the way to provide a forecast to those who genuinely care and trust forecasts that I issue.
That said, from this point on, I will be staying within the realm of knowledge I already have, and leave things I am not too familiar with to the government. I hope to never have an incident like this again. As time passes, I will continue to learn and make connections, but until then, I'm sticking to the stuff I know.


Hurricane Fabio Spins in East Pacific

Hurricane Fabio is currently spinning around in the East Pacific at Category 1 strength, with maximum winds of 90 MPH and a central pressure reading of 982 millibars.

Satellite imagery of Fabio shows a formidable core but no present eye, with the main convection placed on the eastern side of the system. One can see a wrapping motion becoming apparent on the western portion of the hurricane, and this is likely a sign of strengthening. Should this wrapping motion continue, I would expect a tightening of the southwestern convection, as well as an expansion of the strongest storms from the eastern side of the hurricane into the western flank in accordance with the tightening of the core.

Fabio is expected to curve northwest before attempting to move north, as shown on the National Hurricane Center's track above. Stay up to date with the latest coverage on Fabio here, on The Weather Centre.