Solar Flare “Geomagnetic Storm Watch” and Aurora Warning •

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAASpace Weather Forecast Center (SWPC), a major division of the National Weather Service, is currently monitoring the Sun closely following several notable solar events. These events raised concerns about a strong geomagnetic storm, prompting the issuance of a Geomagnetic Storm Watch.

The coronal hole was discovered on December 4

NOAA observed a high-velocity flow of solar particles from a large coronal hole expected to lead to a G2 (moderate) geomagnetic storm on December 4 (UTC day) and a G1 (minor) storm on December 5, 2023. This morning’s warning from the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC)

Coronal holes play an important role in creating auroras on Earth. These dark regions on the Sun’s surface are characterized by open magnetic fields, allowing solar winds to escape easily into space. When these high-speed solar winds, often emerging from coronal holes, reach Earth, they can interact with the planet’s magnetosphere.

November 28 solar flare and CME

On November 27 and 28, the Sun experienced several coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which are massive bursts of solar wind and magnetic fields that rise above the solar corona or are released into space. These CMEs have sparked a flurry of activity and observations by space meteorologists.

A significant solar flare was detected on November 28 at 2:50 PM EST. The event originates from Zone 3500, a moderately complex sunspot group located near the Sun’s central equator. A fourth full halo observed during this period expanded with a CME.

Interestingly, the fourth CME is moving at a faster pace than the previous one. This speed increase is attributed to earlier CMEs sweeping the path through the solar wind. The CME, which is expected to reach Earth between the night of November 30 and December 1, is expected to merge with two of the previous three CMEs.

Effect of geomagnetic storm

SWPC forecasters are vigilantly monitoring the situation using NOAAs DSCOVR satellite, which provides real-time data on the solar wind. This information is critical to understanding the strength and timing of an expected geomagnetic storm.

Geomagnetic storms are known to affect infrastructure in near-Earth orbit and on Earth’s surface. These impacts include disruptions to communications, power grids, navigation systems, radio frequencies and satellite operations. Such storms are a significant concern for industries and services that rely on these technologies.

More auroral activity is expected

An interesting and visually stunning effect of geomagnetic storms is the aurora, commonly known as the northern or southern lights. This storm has the potential to push the aurora further south from its usual position above the polar regions.

If the weather is favorable, auroras can be seen in the northern tier of the US and the upper Midwest from Illinois to Oregon. Residents of these areas are encouraged to check NOAA for the latest Aurora forecast For the best chance to witness this natural phenomenon.

NOAA’s SWPC monitors these solar events regularly and provides updates and forecasts. They provide guidance on the potential impacts of a geomagnetic storm as the situation develops. The public and concerned industries are advised to be prepared to prevent any disruption.

More about geomagnetic storms

As discussed above, geomagnetic storms refer to disturbances in the Earth’s magnetosphere caused by solar wind shocks or interactions of the solar wind with the Earth’s magnetic field. These storms, often originating from activities on the Sun such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs), have profound effects on Earth’s magnetic environment.

Journey from Sun to Earth

The story of geomagnetic storms begins with the Sun. Solar flares, intense bursts of radiation, and CMEs, large ejections of plasma and magnetic field from the solar corona, play an important role. These events release large amounts of particles into space that can reach Earth and interact with its magnetic field, triggering geomagnetic storms.

After their explosion, solar particles and electromagnetic waves travel through space, taking approximately 1-3 days to reach Earth. The speed and intensity of these particles varies with the strength of the solar event.

Interaction with the Earth’s magnetosphere

Upon arrival, these charged particles collide with Earth’s magnetosphere, the region of space controlled by Earth’s magnetic field. This collision causes complex changes and disturbances in the magnetosphere, leading to geomagnetic storms. These storms have a range of impacts, from beautiful auroras to potential disruptions in technology.


The most visible and significant effect is the aurora, known as the northern and southern lights. These displays of color occur when charged particles collide with gases in Earth’s atmosphere, resulting in mesmerizing light displays commonly seen near the polar regions.

Technical disruptions

More significantly, geomagnetic storms can disrupt satellite operations and affect communications and GPS systems. They can induce current in long conductors, affect power grids and cause widespread blackouts.

Impact on spacecraft and satellites

Satellites and spacecraft, exposed to increased radiation, face the risk of damage or malfunction during these storms. This risk requires careful monitoring and safety measures in space missions.

Geomagnetic storm forecasting

Organizations like NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center actively monitor the Sun and predict geomagnetic storms. They use satellites like DSCOVR to monitor the solar wind, provide early warnings, and help mitigate potential impacts to technology and infrastructure.

In short, geomagnetic storms, while a source of natural wonder, remind us of the impact of solar activity on our planet. Understanding and monitoring these storms not only provides insights into our space environment, but also helps us prepare for and mitigate their effects in our increasingly technology-dependent world.

More about Auroras

As mentioned above, auroras, often referred to as the northern or southern lights, are a natural light show mainly found in the polar regions of the Earth. They occur when Earth’s magnetosphere is disturbed by the solar wind, a stream of particles from the Sun. This disturbance creates bright and colorful lights in the sky, creating auroras.

How do auroras form?

The formation of auroras begins with the ejection of particles from the Sun’s atmosphere. These particles, mainly electrons and protons, are carried towards Earth by the solar wind. Upon reaching the Earth, these charged particles interact with the magnetic field and are directed towards the polar regions.

As these particles collide with gases in Earth’s atmosphere, they excite atoms and molecules, causing them to glow. Oxygen and nitrogen, the main components of our atmosphere, play an important role in the color of the auroras. Oxygen emits green and red lights, while nitrogen produces blue and violet colors.

Varieties of Aurora

Auroras come in many forms, each unique and breathtaking:

Aurora Borealis – Also known as the Northern Lights, these are visible in high-latitude areas of the Northern Hemisphere such as Canada, Alaska and Scandinavia.

Aurora Australis – Also known as the Southern Lights, these are seen in the Southern Hemisphere in places like Antarctica, Chile and Australia.

Watching the auroras

For the best aurora viewing experience, visit high-latitude areas during the winter months. Dark, clear nights away from city lights provide optimal conditions. The intensity of auroral displays varies due to the influence of solar cycle and geomagnetic activity.

Cultural and scientific significance

Auroras have captivated the human imagination for centuries, inspiring myths and folklore. Cultures around the world interpret these lights in various ways, often ascribing them to gods or spirits.

In modern times, studying the aurora is crucial to understanding Earth’s magnetosphere and its interaction with the solar wind. This research is important for protecting satellites and communication systems from solar storms.

In short, the auroras are a stunning natural phenomenon that provides a vivid display of Earth’s changing interactions with the Sun. Their beauty and complexity continue to intrigue both scientists and enthusiasts, making them a bucket list item for travelers and the subject of ongoing scientific research.

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