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What are geomagnetic storms and how do they affect the Earth?

What are geomagnetic storms and how do they affect the Earth?

Ground Report | New Delhi: What are geomagnetic storms; Geomagnetic storms are a very frequent phenomenon on Earth. One of its most popular manifestations are the always spectacular northern lights, but depending on their intensity they can also affect electrical installations or telecommunications. There are different ways to classify a geomagnetic storm, but what does each level of geomagnetic storm mean to know how they can affect us?

What are geomagnetic storms?

Geomagnetic storms are disturbances in the Earth’s magnetic field, which can have different consequences. For example, they can cause aurora borealis for many hours, visible in regions near the Earth’s poles. They are directly related to the Sun’s activity and are a good reminder of our planet’s connection to the star at the center of the Solar System.

From time to time, our star may expel a small amount of material, in what is known as a coronal mass ejection. If it reaches Earth, it can cause a geomagnetic storm.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory reported seeing a significant solar flare, or “coronal mass ejection” (CME), on Thursday. Flares – or CMEs – are powerful eruptions on the Sun’s surface that send tons of superheated gas and radiation into space.

Similarly, the Sun’s stellar wind, if fast and persistent enough, can cause the Earth’s magnetic field to stay perturbed for a long time. Although the phenomena are well known, it is not possible to predict when a geomagnetic storm might occur.

We also have to distinguish between solar flares and geomagnetic storms. The Sun could emit a very powerful flare (the most powerful are class X) and not produce a geomagnetic storm, simply by moving in a different direction from the position of the Earth.

How is it produced?

“They are produced by a break in the magnetic balance of that terrestrial environment. The Earth as a planet, and the Sun as our closest star, have an associated magnetic field. When for some reason that magnetic balance is abruptly broken in the vicinity of the Earth, that is when we say that a geomagnetic storm is produced,” says physicist Camilo Buitrago-Casas, Master in Astronomy from the National University of Colombia (UNAL), according to the academy’s web newspaper.

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“Their origin is external and they are produced by a sudden increase in the particles emitted in solar flares that reach the magnetosphere, producing alterations in the Earth’s magnetic field,” says a document from the National Geographic Institute of Spain.

What are the effects of these storms?

According to a newspaper article from the National University of Colombia, storms can “alter electrical systems, have effects on communications, especially on HF frequencies at 30 megahertz or BHF in navigation systems, and affect aircraft at high altitudes.” , because when there is a magnetic storm, the flow of protons can generate higher doses of radiation on the crew of some planes”.

On the other hand, radiation bursts are often directed toward Earth, and while the harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through the atmosphere to physically affect humans, it is strong enough that it can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and other communication signals travel.

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