Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Coronal Mass Ejection from Sunday solar flare may affect communications on Earth Tuesday

NASA is advising that a coronal mass ejection from the Sun occurred Sunday night, and that the “space storm line” (by analogy to thunderstorms) should cross the Earth around 9 AM Tuesday Jan 24, give or take up to seven hours. 

Disruption of satellites is possible, and there is at least a remote threat of power outages or grid disruptions, particularly in more northerly or polar latitudes.

The flare was the largest since 2005.

A CME in 1989 caused a huge 24 hour power outage in much of Quebec.  A Carrington-sized (1859) event could cause catastrophic, prolonged power failures throughout much of the world.

Here is NASA’s story.  The stills and videos are downloadable and in public domain.

The Weather channel and Associated Press have a bigger story with a non-embeddable video here

Major newspapers and broadcast networks have not emphasized the story.

If will be interesting to see if the president discusses hardening of infrastructure tonight in the State of the Union speech, or if the GOP candidates (besides doomsday-obsessed New Gingrich) predict it. It would be ironic of a solar flare cause power outages that disrupted primaries, debates, or major speeches. 

Solar Watcher has this video on YouTube:

Later:  Starting about 11 PM last night, Comcast cable dropped very briefly a few times, and the Internet reset itself those times.  Then, this morning (around 10 AM), the XFinity digital phone was out even though Internet and cable were working. The problem started when the phone rang and no one was on the other end. In about five minutes, I was able to fix the problem by simply dialing the number from my cell phone and making it ring once (and playing through three unread messages from politicians).  I suspect this could all be solar-flare related.  I am in the DC area, at just moderate latitude (39 degrees).

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