Just when we thought that the solar disturbance on the Sun might be slowing down due to the lack of any Earth-directed activity in over a week, our planet witnessed the most terrifying solar storm strike of the year 2023. The severe solar storm was caused by a coronal mass ejection (CME) hit that arrived earlier than expected and sparked a G4-class geomagnetic storm on Earth. It should be noted that this is only the second time in two years that a solar storm of this category has been seen. The storm engulfed a massive region covering Europe, China, and most of the USA. As it subsides now, things are still complicated with an NOAA prediction saying another G2-class storm is due to arrive tomorrow, April 26.
SpaceWeather.com noted, “Arriving earlier than expected, a CME hit Earth’s magnetic field. The impact sparked a severe G4-class geomagnetic storm with auroras in Europe sighted as far south as France”. For now, the storm is subsiding. But there is no reason to celebrate so soon. “Minor (G1) to moderate (G2) geomagnetic storm remains possible as Earth exits the CME’s wake”, it added.
Severe solar storm strikes the Earth
The CME which hit the Earth was released on April 21 from a magnetic filament. Interestingly, another CME cloud was released from the same filament on April 19, which produced a storm so weak that it barely registered on the Kp index. However, this one broke all previous records of this year.
Social media platforms were flooded with users posting pictures of the night sky glowing in radiant green, blue and red hues due to the storm. Aurora displays were seen as far south as Texas and France.
However, a geomagnetic storm is not just a fun event to chase auroras. The G4-class category also highlights the destructive power it contains within it. Typically, such storms can damage satellites, disrupt GPS, mobile networks, and internet connectivity, cause power grid failure, and even impact ground-based electronics. The full extent of the damage done by this particular storm has not been assessed at the moment.
NOAA’s DSCOVR satellite’s role in solar storm monitoring
NOAA monitors solar storms and Sun’s behavior using its DSCOVR satellite which became operational in 2016. The recovered data is then run through the Space Weather Prediction Center and the final analysis is prepared. The different measurements are done on temperature, speed, density, degree of orientation, and frequency of the solar particles.