Have you ever heard of a solar storm? These fascinating and dangerous phenomena occur when the Sun releases a burst of energy in the form of charged particles and electromagnetic radiation into space, which can cause geomagnetic storms on Earth. However, if you are wondering what would happen if a solar storm were to hit Earth, or what it would take for us to reverse its effects, then you are not alone in your curiosity. Moreover, you may have questioned whether solar storms pose any real danger to humanity or if they are merely a misconception. For all your questions, we are here to answer.
First, let’s find out:
What is a Solar Storm?
Solar storms are a fascinating yet dangerous phenomenon that occurs due to the sun’s complex magnetic field. A solar storm is a natural phenomenon that occurs when the Sun releases large amounts of charged particles and electromagnetic radiation into space. A solar storm is a burst of energy emanating from the sun’s surface through charged particles and electromagnetic radiation.
According to atmospheric and space scientist Aaron Ridley of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor: “We understand a little bit about how these solar storms form, but we can’t predict [them] well,”
This continuous stream of particles and radiation is known as the solar wind. However, sometimes the Sun releases more energetic bursts of charged particles called coronal mass ejections (CMEs). The sun’s corona rejected these massive clouds of plasma and magnetic fields. They can travel at high speeds toward Earth. When these particles interact with Earth’s magnetic field, they can cause geomagnetic storms.
Moreover, you should know:
What Happens When a Solar Storm Hits Earth?
When a solar storm occurs, it can send coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and shock waves hurtling toward Earth. These events can create
geomagnetic storms when they interact with the planet’s magnetic field. The storms can trigger auroras or Northern and Southern Lights, which are beautiful natural displays of colorful lights in the sky. However, these charged particles can also cause significant disruptions in electronic systems. Geomagnetic storms can cause disturbances in Earth’s power grids and navigation systems and disrupt radio communication. A massive solar flare that occurred on August 7, 1972, triggered an intense magnetic storm that disrupted radio waves, telecommunication networks, and power systems. While auroras are a stunning sight, the effects of a solar storm hitting Earth can be significant and potentially damaging.
Note: What are Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs)?
Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are the most potent source of solar storms. The sun’s corona ejected these massive clouds of plasma and magnetic fields. They can travel at speeds of up to 3 million miles per hour. Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) are large bubbles of plasma from the Sun’s corona, consisting of strong magnetic field lines that are discharged into space over several hours.
Fortunately, We are safe. However, there is another question that arises:
Do Solar Storm Affect Humans?
The answer is no! However, solar storms do not directly affect human health. They can impact the technology we rely on in our daily lives. Solar storms can affect humans, including disruption of communication and navigation systems, damage to electrical grids, and radiation exposure. When a solar storm hits Earth, it can produce powerful electromagnetic fields that induce electrical currents in power lines and pipelines. It potentially leads to blackouts and infrastructure damage.
Solar radiation storms can also pose a risk to astronauts and airline crew and passengers. As they can be exposed to high levels of radiation. For example, a severe solar storm in 1989 caused a power outage in Quebec that lasted for 12 hours. In today’s increasingly connected world, the effects of such an event would be much more widespread and devastating.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center’s Heliophysics Science Division Associate Director for Science is Alex Young. He says: “We live on a planet with a very thick atmosphere… that stops all of the harmful radiation that is produced in a solar flare”. Moreover, he says: “Even in the largest events that we’ve seen in the past 10,000 years, we see that the effect is not enough to damage the atmosphere such that we are no longer protected,”
You may not worry if you are wondering:
When is the Next Solar Storms Expected?
Solar storms are a natural phenomenon. The frequency and intensity of solar storms vary based on the sun’s activity cycle, which lasts about 11 years. Currently, we are in a minimum solar phase where the Sun is relatively quiet. And the number of solar storms is low. However, the next solar maximum phase is expected to occur around 2025. During this phase, solar activity is at its highest, and the frequency and intensity of solar storms are likely to increase.
Despite studying the Sun for decades, scientists have yet to determine what causes these storms to erupt or how to predict when the next solar storm will occur. However, NASA has several satellites, including the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). It monitors the Sun’s activity and provides warnings of a potential storm. Additionally, ongoing missions like the Parker Solar Probe are collecting data that will help scientists better understand the Sun and its behavior. It leads to more accurate predictions of when the next solar storm may occur.
The AI got us covered with,
How it Works and its Potential Impact!
The DAGGER model (formally, Deep Learning Geomagnetic Perturbation) is an innovative computer model that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to predict and quickly identify geomagnetic disturbances or perturbations that could affect our technology. To develop this model, a team of international researchers from the Frontier Development Lab used deep learning AI to recognize patterns between solar wind measurements and geomagnetic perturbations observed at ground stations globally. The team utilized real measurements from heliophysics missions such as ACE, Wind, IMP-8, and Geotail to train the computer and develop the DAGGER model.
Advantages of DAGGER
DAGGER can predict geomagnetic disturbances worldwide 30 minutes before they occur, making it faster and more accurate than previous prediction models. The computer model can provide predictions in less than a second. And the predictions update every minute, providing prompt and precise information for sites globally. The team tested DAGGER against two geomagnetic storms that occurred in August 2011 and March 2015 and found that DAGGER was able to quickly and accurately forecast the storm’s impacts around the world.
Professor Vishal Upendran of India’s Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics. He authored a paper on the DAGGER model for Space Weather. It says: “With this AI, it is now possible to make rapid and accurate global predictions and inform decisions in the event of a solar storm. Thereby minimizing – or even preventing – devastation to modern society,”
Unlike previous models that produced local geomagnetic forecasts for specific locations on Earth or global predictions that weren’t very timely, DAGGER combines the swift analysis of AI with real measurements from space and across the Earth to generate frequently updated predictions that are prompt and precise for sites worldwide. Power grid operators, satellite controllers, and telecommunications companies can adopt the open-source computer code in the DAGGER model and apply the predictions to their specific needs. Such warnings could give them time to take action to protect their assets and infrastructure from an impending solar storm.
With models like DAGGER, there could be solar storm sirens that sound an alarm in power stations and satellite control centers worldwide. Similar to how tornado sirens warn of threatening terrestrial weather in towns and cities across America. The potential impact of the DAGGER model could be significant in mitigating the effects of solar storms on technology and infrastructure.
To Put It All Together:
Solar storms are an unpredictable force of nature that can seriously impact our society. Despite decades of research, scientists still cannot predict when the next solar storm will occur. However, the DAGGER model developed by NASA provides advanced warnings of impending solar storms. It gives organizations time to take necessary precautions. This development highlights the potential of AI in space weather forecasting and its critical role in mitigating the impact of natural disasters on our technology-dependent world.