A massive, severe solar storm smacked Earth Tuesday (3/17/15) with a surprisingly big magnetic jolt. This affected power grids and GPS systems as it pushed colorful northern lights south. The Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado predicted that this storm would bring minor flares that would be classified as G1 (minor).
The most powerful storms are classified as G5 (major) by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. An instance of the effects of these powerful storms dates back to Halloween of 2003 when a powerful geomagnetic storm forced astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) to take shelter because of dangerous radiation levels.
Tuesday’s storm, ranked a 4, was called by NASA to hold geomagnetic effects — the strongest storm to blast Earth since the fall of 2013. Fortunately, it has been nearly a decade since we have seen a level 5 storm.
Forecasters and specialists expected this storm to be a level 1 system, but with such a blast, it shocked many of them. “It’s significantly stronger than expected,” said Thomas Berger, the director of the Space Weather Prediction Center.
Often, these storms will produce effects that will disrupt satellite communication, but that was not the case. Most storms like this will produce positive effects, especially on the general public. The Aurora Borealis, more commonly known as the northern lights, can only be viewed in the far north, but this storm made it a possibility for southern citizens to view such a spectacular sight.
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