Space Weather Pt 2

posted in: Michigan Weather Forecast | 34

We tend to exist in ignorance of a lot of things above and below our feet.  We are lulled into the belief we are in relative safety here on the surface of the earth with the exception of atmospheric storms, volcanoes and earthquakes of course.

We actually survive in a fragile shell of existence and our knowledge of what exists below the surface of the earth and what is in the oceans is less than what we know of our solar system.  Over seven billion people live on the crust of the earth with the thickest of the atmosphere up to 36000 feet above them.  Our atmosphere dwindles out to about 60 miles and is held in place by earths gravity.

Just beyond our atmosphere we have the junkyard of space – According to the United States Space Surveillance Network, there are more than 21,000 objects larger than four inches orbiting the Earth. Just a small fraction of these are operational satellites. It’s estimated there are a further 500,000 bits and pieces between a third of an inch and four inches in size.

Last week I wrote about sunspots and solar flares and promised to tell you the scary parts of space weather.  We have space debris which can fall, solar flares, meteors and other hazards.  As of today there are 1947 potentially hazardous asteroids which could swing into near earth orbit ranging in size of one to 250 meters.  Just thought you would like to know….

The sun is the main source of space weather. Sudden bursts of plasma and magnetic field structures from the sun’s atmosphere called coronal mass ejections (CME) together with sudden bursts of radiation, or solar flares, all cause space weather effects here on Earth.

Space weather can produce electromagnetic fields that induce extreme currents in wires, disrupting power lines, and even causing wide-spread blackouts. Severe space weather also produces solar energetic particles, which can damage satellites used for commercial communications, global positioning, intelligence gathering, and weather forecasting.

The strongest geomagnetic storm on record is the Carrington Event of August-September 1859, named after the British astronomer Richard Carrington. During this event currents electrified telegraph lines, shocking technicians and setting their telegraph papers on fire; and Northern Lights (electrically charged particles from the sun that enter Earth’s atmosphere) were visible as far south as Cuba and Hawaii.

Another significant space weather event took place on March 13,1989; a powerful geomagnetic storm set off a major power blackout in Canada that left six million people without electricity for nine hours. According to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), the flare disrupted electric power transmission from the Hydro Québec generating station and even melted some power transformers in New Jersey.

Space weather can have an impact on our advanced technologies which has a direct impact on our daily lives. The main area of concern will most likely be our nation’s electric power grid. Northern territories are more vulnerable to these effects than areas farther south.  Generally, power outages due to space weather are very rare events, but evidence suggests that significant effects could occur.  These power outages may have cascading effects, causing:

  • Loss of water and wastewater distribution systems
  • Loss of perishable foods and medications
  • Loss of heating/air conditioning and electrical lighting systems
  • Loss of computer systems, telephone systems, and communications systems (including disruptions in airline flights, satellite networks and GPS services)
  • Loss of public transportation systems
  • Loss of fuel distribution systems and fuel pipelines
  • Loss of all electrical systems that do not have back-up power

The NOAA Space Weather Scales report three categories of solar effects. These scales communicate current and future space weather conditions, and their possible effects on people and systems. Similar to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, the NOAA space weather scales correlate space weather events with their likely effects on technological systems. As shown in the table below, the scales describe the environmental disturbances for three event types: Geomagnetic Storms (G-scale), Solar Radiation Storms (S-scale), and Radio Blackouts (R-scale). The scales have numbered levels, analogous to hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes that convey severity.

Description of Space Weather Scale

Geomagnetic Storms: disturbances in the geomagnetic field caused by gusts in the solar wind that blows by Earth.

Minor  —  Extreme G1
G2
G3
G4
G5

Solar Radiation Storms: elevated levels of radiation that occur when the numbers of energetic particles increase.

Minor  —  Extreme S1
S2
S3
S4
S5

Radio Blackouts: disturbances of the ionosphere caused by X-ray emissions from the Sun.

Minor  —  Extreme R1
R2
R3
R4
R5

 

Description of Space Weather Scale Minor  —  Extreme
Geomagnetic Storms: disturbances in the geomagnetic field caused by gusts in the solar wind that blows by Earth. G1 G2 G3 G4 G5
Solar Radiation Storms: elevated levels of radiation that occur when the numbers of energetic particles increase. S1 S2 S3 S4 S5
Radio Blackouts: disturbances of the ionosphere caused by X-ray emissions from the Sun. R1 R2 R3 R4 R5

 

NOTE: The vast majority of “5” level events will not cause catastrophic damages to the electric grid.  On average, the Earth is impacted by such storms about four times during every 11-year solar cycle, so many large storms have impacted the planet since the Carrington Storm with much less signification impact.

Yes, this is a dire way to start our work week – like the weather, earthquakes and volcanoes we have no control – just one of these can disrupt life, however a major solar storm or asteroid could have change the way we live (or not).


 

 

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Jeff(Portland)Sandy (Hudsonville)Mr. NegativeAndy WINDY Recent comment authors
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INDY
INDY

20* degrees out at thee YARDofBRICKS coldest night of the season ….Temps falling! INDY!

Barry in Zeeland
Barry in Zeeland

With the forecast low of 18, which is right at average, that is still not as low as the 16 we’ve already had one night.

INDY
INDY

Lol…ok…INDY….

ROCKY (Rockford)
ROCKY (Rockford)

Barry lives to find fault with your comments! It is an obsession! The bottom line is winter will be returning BIG time! Get ready for TONS and COLD and SNOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

INDY
INDY

Coldest night of the season thsts all! INDY!

Barry in Zeeland
Barry in Zeeland

No, just correcting the wrong things he posts but never backs up. Some people come here for accurate information which he rarely ever posts.

INDY
INDY

14* degreesout at thee YARDofBRICKS as of 414am ….lol INDY….

Barry in Zeeland
Barry in Zeeland

Bottomed our at 17 here, now with the clouds moved in its back up to 20.

INDY
INDY

Storm coming Sunday into Monday lot of chatter out there about about a major Blizzard going to happen with this storm now … Michigan to far south as Tennessee all the way to the northeast needs to take this seriously… Something real Big could be brewing…MV’s best get ready…INDY!

Rocky (Rockford)
Rocky (Rockford)

Rock n roll will never die and I am always ready for monster snows!

Rocky (Rockford)
Rocky (Rockford)

Bring on all of those below normal temps and snow!!

Barry in Zeeland
Barry in Zeeland

Great evening out at Saugatuck beach watching the sunset! No wind, calm water, no ice, and no snow. Lot of people out walking around enjoying a mild mid-January day. Perfect!

http://tinypic.com/usermedia.php?uo=jJm7XUcEEIxwUuazZ%2FENN4h4l5k2TGxc#.XDvTCYxOmhA

Jeff(Portland)
Jeff(Portland)

Looks like an early spring evening .. Winter half over and still BELOW average on snowfall ..

Sandy (Hudsonville)
Sandy (Hudsonville)

Beautiful!!

INDY
INDY

25* degrees out at thee YARDofBRICKS tonight maybe the coldest night of the Winter season temp is falling fast outside we shall see! This will feel warm to what’s a coming at the end of the week…Chief Bills weekend forcast snow snow snow and snow cold cold cold and cold….INDY!

Slim

Just got back from my walk. it is sunny here and with no snow on the ground the temperature here at my house is now up to 35.6° The airport is reporting 31° You know it still looks and feels like March out there. Funny thing is the complete lack of snow as in the past we have had at least the snow piles even during the warmest of January’s
Slim

Barry in Zeeland
Barry in Zeeland

Nice posts below Slim! Record setting stats on the first half of our incredibly mild and snowless first half of Winter, and outlook maps showing us maybe having 2 weeks of cooler air then back to mild.

Sandy (Hudsonville)
Sandy (Hudsonville)

It sure is beautiful to see the sun today! It makes it look warmer even if it’s not.

Sandy (Hudsonville)
Sandy (Hudsonville)

Great post MV!

Mr. Negative
Mr. Negative

Considering what we have coming, and what we must yet get through, today must be appreciated as “one less day of winter.”

Mark (East Lansing)
Mark (East Lansing)

Just dropped my brother off at the Ford airport. No snow there either.

Slim

If the CFSv2 is correct it looks like we may have two weeks of cold and and then a chance of a warm up by February 3 to the 9thcomment image
comment image
We shall see
Slim

Slim

Yesterdays snow event missed us to the south. Much of Iowa, Illinois, Ohio and here in Michigan south of I 94 received snow yesterday. Here at Grand Rapids we are now -26.1″ in the snow fall department since December 1 and are now -19.7″ for the season. Gaylord is now -23.6″ below the seasonal snow fall and at Traverse City they are at -26.3″ for the season. Here at Grand Rapids the January mean is now at 31.7° and that is good for a departure of +6.9°. 33 of the last 34 days have been warmer then average and 34… Read more »

INDY
INDY

Highs only in the teens coming! Should freeze up the lakes fast for some good ice fishing…Let’s go Blue 17-0 today breaking records …Have a nice Sunday funday! INDYCOLD!!

Andy W
Andy W

Go Blue INDY!!

Slim

Great write up MV
Slim

Mark (East Lansing)
Mark (East Lansing)

One of the many reasons I like living in this area – not too many catastrophic natural disasters.

Slim

Don’t tell storm team 8 that it will not go with the ads very well.
Slim

Barry in Zeeland
Barry in Zeeland

Ha! Ain’t that the truth. All they keep running is ads about how they keep us on top of all the Winter weather. Except outside of 1 or 2 days, we haven’t had any.

Rocky (Rockford)
Rocky (Rockford)

We have an incredible stretch of real winter weather on our doorsteps! Bring it!

Barry in Zeeland
Barry in Zeeland

Nope. Just checked our doorstep, nothing but green grass and dry cement:

http://tinypic.com/usermedia.php?uo=jJm7XUcEEIxj0kqlxRZxHYh4l5k2TGxc#.XDuTNYxOmhA

Barry in Zeeland
Barry in Zeeland

Great seeing the sun this morning! Just another ABOVE average day without snow. What an incredible stretch we have had!

Barry in Zeeland
Barry in Zeeland

Good write up Michael! One more note on all the space debris circulating our planet, times of high solar activity can be beneficial because it will actually “inflate” our atmosphere. This causes it to expand further into space which in turn will create drag on closer pieces of debris, causing them to fall back and burn up in the higher atmosphere. Helps clean up some of the accumulated junk up there.

Barry in Zeeland
Barry in Zeeland

Good animation of just how much junk is up there here:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=JmVt92d5bd4