April 21, 2024

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Were the cell phone service outages caused by solar flares? No.

3 min read

Many folks woke up to cell services outages Thursday morning.

INDIANA, USA — Two R3 solar flares last night, plus a big AT&T outage – were they connected? 

Did the space weather event cause the outage? Most likely not. Let us explain why. 

No cell service

Many folks across the nation woke up to no cell service Thursday morning, many times prompting “SOS” signals at the top of their devices, including in central Indiana. AT&T reportedly was the most impacted with a smaller number customers on Verizon and T-Mobile.

Two R3 Solar Flares – Radio Blackouts

We registered two solar flares from Wednesday Feb. 21 into Thursday Feb. 22. NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center rates these radio blackouts on a scale from 1-5. These are not the same as geomagnetic storms that produce auroras. 

The scale goes like this: 

  • R1:  Minor
  • R2:  Moderate
  • R3:  Strong (wide area blackout of HF radio communication, loss of radio contact for about an hour, low-frequency navigation signals degraded for about an hour)
  • R4:  Severe
  • R5:  Extreme

There is an important note. The blackout mostly impacts the sunlit side of the earth, so generally the U.S. was not impacted as much.

First R3 storm:  The first one hit R3 status and mainly hit the Pacific Ocean around 6PM eastern Wednesday. The second one hit around 1:30 a.m.Thursday.

Second R3 storm: This storm hit around 1:30 a.m. eastern time. At this time, the storm would have hit the other side of the earth over the Indian Ocean.

The solar flare that was closer to the time of the AT&T outage was the R3 flare that hit the Indian Ocean and parts of central Asia, eastern Africa, and western Australia.

Science note: notice how there are more colors toward the bottom of the map, or the south pole? That is because we still have a tilt toward the southern hemisphere for solar radiation. 

Our days are still shorter than our nights because we are still in winter. However, this would be flip-flopped after the spring equinox.

This tweet was posted from the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center, talking about the R3 flare not impacting the USA because we were in nighttime hours.

And take a look at another post from a British solar astrophysicist, talking about the sunlit sides of the earth being impact, but not the U.S.

Once we hear more word on the cause of the cell service outage from AT&T, we’ll send updates. 

In the meantime, the outage and the R3 radio blackout where just coincidentally near the same time.

Tap HERE for more on the outage.

2024-02-22 21:50:00

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