May 27, 2024

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‘Will my cellphone work?’ | Impacts from the geomagnetic storm

3 min read

WUSA9 asked NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center for answers to questions important to you.

WASHINGTON — Something out of this world is happening this weekend and it could have impacts here on Earth. A severe solar storm is in the forecast through the weekend, which will send solar flares this way.

On Thursday, the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center issued a Severe Geomagnetic Storm Watch. It’s the first time the agency has issued this type of watch (level G4) since 2005.

Here are some answers to the top questions about the event from experts at the Space Weather Prediction Center. Experts there said most people don’t have to do anything to prepare.

“Our level of confidence is high,” said Shawn Dahl, Service Coordinator at the Space Weather Prediction Center. Dahl’s main concern is for how this solar storm could impact large power grids and major transformers, not necessarily the power lines that go to your home. 

If there are major impacts to this event, it will be felt by satellites and power girds. Space stations with astronauts onboard may have to move to a more secure location. 

Will my cellphone work?

Experts at the Space Weather Prediction Center said that your phone should not be impacted. However, you may want to make sure it’s charged up, just in case power is impacted.  

Will my GPS work?

GPS may be impacted. “Maybe some strange nuances, such as appearing off the road from time to time or brief loss of GPS signal lock; otherwise, it should function well enough,” Dahl said. 

Will the internet still work? 

Internet should work as long as you have power. 

Will planes be able to fly while this is going on?

“Pilots and flight planners are well aware of the situation and will adjust any flight routes as necessary to keep full communications with ATC and ensure the safety of passengers and aircrews,” Dahl explained. 

Will this impact my electric vehicle? 

“Unlikely at all,” Dahl said.  

Can commercial trains operate safely during this event?   

“From what we understand, yes. They are also aware of the situation and will ensure GPS navigation systems for controlling movement and timing are working properly,” Dahl said. 

Will I be able to see the Northern Lights?

It depends. The place to see it will be in Canada and areas north. However, experts said if the storm is strong enough, the Northern Lights may be slightly visible as far south as Alabama, California, even Florida. Experts said your cellphone camera would likely pick up better images than your eyes, as cameras are better at capturing light.  

What causes all of this?

Scientist are monitoring the sun because the giant star has been unleashing solar flares. According to NASA, a solar flare is an intense burst of radiation. There have also been CMEs (coronal mass ejections). These are explosions of plasma and magnetic field from the sun’s corona.

“They cause geomagnetic storms when they are directed at Earth. Geomagnetic storms can impact infrastructure in near-Earth orbit and on Earth’s surface, potentially disrupting communications, the electric power grid, navigation, radio and satellite operations,” officials with the Space Weather Prediction Center. 

Earth has a magnetosphere, think of it as a big bubble around the planet. This bubble helps to shield us from solar and cosmic particle radiation.   Solar flares can disrupt Earth’s magnetic field and cause geomagnetic storms. 

2024-05-11 03:45:33

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