Earth Pummeled by Solar Storms As More Sunspots Appear on Sun's Surface

Earth is being pummeled by solar storms as more sunspots appear on the sun's surface.

A G2 geomagnetic storm was recorded on August 7, while another smaller G1 storm is expected on Monday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center said.

The NOAA said high-latitude power systems could be affected by the storm, while the orbits of spacecraft may be impacted.

The sun is currently reaching the peak of it's 11 year cycle, known as the solar maximum. During this time, more sunspots appear on the surface of the sun, which creates an increase in solar events like flares and coronal mass ejections.

These events have the potential to impact Earth if a flare or CME is directed towards our planet. Charged particles from the sun can interfere with the magnetic field, potentially causing problems with power grids, satellites and GPS systems.

SpaceWeather.com said the G2 storm had come as a surprise, with a stream of solar wind picking up velocity over the course of the day on August 7. It said the event was not forecast.

Aurora—also known as the Northern Lights—that appeared as a result of the G2 storm were seen over New York and Idaho. Aurora become visible as the electrons from the solar winds hit the Earth's magnetosphere.

Sunspots
A stock photo shows a solar flare coming from the sun. Two recently observed sunspots have been spotted recently. LV4260/Getty

The NOAA is currently forecasting a minor G1 geomagnetic storm for Monday. This type of storm can result in power grid fluctuations and small impacts on satellites. It can also affect animal behavior—migratory animals may become temporarily confused in regard to navigation, causing their behavior to change.

The severity of solar storms is ranked on a scale between G1 and G5. G1 storms are the weakest on the scale, and can happen fairly regularly, multiple times a month. G5 storms are the most severe, and a much rarer occurrence.

A slightly stronger, G2 geomagnetic storm may interfere with a power systems. According to the NOAA, some may experience voltage alarms. If the storm persists, it may cause transformer damage.

Following the G2 storm, Twitter users shared images of the aurora it produced.

Space weather physicist Tamitha Skov said on Twitter commented on the event: "WOW. We've jumped to G2-levels, mainly due to north-south-north flipping of the solar wind magnetic field," she wrote. "This is substorm heaven. Expect pulsating aurora ... & sporadic shows, especially at high latitudes."

So far in 2022 there has only been one day where the sun has been free from sunspots.

According to SpaceWeatherLive.com, which tracks solar activity in real time, two new sunspot regions have appeared on the surface of the sun since August 7. The solar wind is currently traveling at around 1.3 million miles per hour.

In a blog post on July 25, NASA said Solar Cycle 25 is currently exceeding predictions, despite still being a couple of years away from the expected peak. in the post, Nicola Fox, Director of NASA's Heliophysics Division, said: "The Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel, an international group of experts co-sponsored by NASA and NOAA, predicted that this would be a below-average solar cycle, like the one before it—Solar Cycle 24.

"However, the Sun has been much more active this cycle than anticipated. The cycle is aligning more with a study from a team lead by Scott McIntosh of National Center for Atmospheric Research, published in Solar Physics."

In this study, researchers said Solar Cycle 25 could be one of the strongest since records began. "This outcome would be in stark contrast to the community consensus estimate of sunspot Solar Cycle 25 magnitude," the team wrote.

Fox said this extreme solar maximum would bring with it challenges society has not yet faced: "We have an increasing dependence on space-based technology and ground-based infrastructure that are susceptible to the dynamic nature of space," she wrote. "For many new commercial and government stakeholders, this already stronger-than-expected solar cycle will be the first they navigate."