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Continued G4 (Severe) Geomagnetic Storming Observed (noaa.gov)
216 points by ashitlerferad 42 days ago | hide | past | web | 80 comments | favorite

Meaning of G4: http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/noaa-scales-explanation

"Power systems: Possible widespread voltage control problems and some protective systems will mistakenly trip out key assets from the grid.

Spacecraft operations: May experience surface charging and tracking problems, corrections may be needed for orientation problems.

Other systems: Induced pipeline currents affect preventive measures, HF radio propagation sporadic, satellite navigation degraded for hours, low-frequency radio navigation disrupted, and aurora has been seen as low as Alabama and northern California (typically 45° geomagnetic lat.)."

Apparently there are 100 of these per 11-year solar cycle.

Apparently there are 100 of these per 11-year solar cycle.

Seems that there are much more than 100 flares each cycle: https://hesperia.gsfc.nasa.gov/hessidata/dbase/hessi_flare_l...

It also seems that flares above X2.2 are quite rare. There have been only 10 of those since 2008: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_cycle_24#Events

The latest flare, measured at X9.3 is VERY rare: https://www.spaceweatherlive.com/en/solar-activity/top-50-so...

I wouldn't downplay this

That last link is extremely interesting. Just spent some minutes watching the videos of previous record setting flares.

The flares oriented towards Earth are very obvious due to the amount of static after flare ejection. We all exist in a narrow band of of environmental conditions, spooky thinking about how much energy is occasionally hurled towards us. Just a slight lick from Sol and we could be done for.

G4 geomagnetic storms, not flares.

> Spacecraft operations: May experience surface charging and tracking problems, corrections may be needed for orientation problems.

What causes the tracking and orientation problems? Are they being pushed, or do satellites control their orbit?

It takes huge amounts of deliberately applied energy to change their orbit. This is about the influence of the radiation on the sensors and systems which help to control the orientation of the satellites. In particular, magnetorquers use the magnetic field of the earth to (very slowly) dump excess angular momentum from the reaction wheels and control moment gyros.

Solar storms can also add a weak torque onto the satellite, depending on the orientation and shape of its body and solar panels. Again, the satellite has an attitude control system to handle such things, but it will still suffer the impulse response from the transient.

I would suspect they are using magnetometers for determining orientation. Those might be affected.

For the most part, orientation is measured optically or thermally - with sun sensors, earth sensors, and star trackers.

"Yup, that's why I was late to work this morning." :)

what "these" do we have 100 of? X class flares, or X class flares facing the Earth? Because just by chance we are usually out of harm's way.

Having subscribed to NOAA's alerts a couple years ago, I would say we might get an event like this once a year or two

Per the link above, this is the 8th most powerful CME hitting earth in recorded history. An X9.3 is not a yearly thing.

How far back does "recorded history" go for these sorts of detailed space weather measurements? The linked #8 ranking seems to be based on 20 years of data

As far back as the Carrington Event at least.


I think they go back to the early telegraph based off of observations of static on the wire and other related problems (a telegraph was basically a giant inductor).

Are those classifications listed somewhere? I suspect that they'd be much less accurate than the measurements from modern equipment (e.g. satellites)

G4 geomagnetic storms. (I'm just parroting the chart I linked.)

Checking the PJM power grid's alerts:

Warning: A Geomagnetic Disturbance Warning has been issued for 01:47 on 09.08.2017 through 17:00 on 09.08.2017 . A GMD warning of K7 or greater is in effect for this period. Additional Comments: SpaceWeatherPredictionCenter Extended original Warning of GMD Intensity of K7 or greater until 9/8/17 21:00 UTC (17:00 EDT).

Warning: A Geomagnetic Disturbance Warning has been issued for 19:21 on 09.07.2017 through 02:00 on 09.08.2017 . A GMD warning of K7 or greater or greater is in effect for this period.

These are just warnings. No alarms or actions yet.

The effect of these events on the power grid is to induce DC currents between grounded points far apart. This reduces the capacity of some transformers by causing partial saturation. PJM monitors those currents at some substations, and will take action if transformers start to saturate. There are routine switching procedures for this.

For long-distance DC lines, it's a win; the system can use the power.

There's an app, "PJM Now", for monitoring what PJM is doing.[1][2] But unless you're in the industry you're going to be bored by 99% of what it shows you.

They haven't taken any geomagnetic disturbance actions yet, beyond issuing the warnings above. If this was affecting anything in the power grid, there'd be actions listed. So far, all is quiet.

(Background: PJM runs the wholesale power grid for the northeastern US and part of Canada. They don't own it; there are lots of different companies that own parts of it, and they collectively own PJM. PJM has control of the transmission hardware. The system is run from a control room in Valley Forge, PA and a backup center somewhere else.

They also operate the market in electricity, like a commodity exchange. Generator startup and shutdown decisions are usually made by the owners of units based on current price info. But when there's trouble, the PJM control center can order "conservative operation", which means the control center will tell generators to start up, shut down, or stand by. When they expect trouble, due to weather, high heat, extreme cold, or equipment outages, there will be orders to make preparations.

PJM had a major blackout caused by a geomagnetic disturbance on March 13, 1989. They're very aware of the problem. They have emergency procedures for when it happens again.

So what PJM says is not PR; it's the control room giving orders. If they're not showing emergency conditions in effect, which they're not today, the geomagnetic disturbance isn't hurting the power grid and isn't expected to do so in the near future. Every time somebody posts about some current geomagnetic disturbance, I check PJM's info. If they're not worried in the control room, there's probably not much to worry about.)

[1] https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.pjm.pjmnow... [2] https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pjm-now/id1180491584?ls=1&mt...

How common are long-distance DC lines and what are they used for?

My understanding is that the vast majority of power infrastructure is AC, and long distances are using High Voltage AC lines

HVDC is used for long-distance transmission where taps aren't necessary, and to connect disparate AC standards. Popular applications are undersea cables, remote generation facilities, and intercontinental or inter-country distribution. It's a lot more efficient than AC over distance as it requires fewer conductors and doesn't suffer from skin effect, so transmission losses are lower. And since you're already doing the AC->DC->AC conversion, there's no need for the connected grids to be synchronized.

As renewables (solar, wind, hydro) become more popular, so too does the need for reliable long-distance power transmission. With fossil fuel, fuels could be delivered to the point of generation - with solar, wind, and hydro, the location of the generator is non-negotiable and so the energy must be transported instead.

So we'll probably see more and more HVDC systems in coming years.

For undersea connections, the water around it means the line has a lot higher capacitance. An AC link has to load/unload that capacity all the time and looses energy to it, a DC link doesn't.

Similar effects happen with normal power lines as well, so it also has benefits on long-distance connections on land. Since you need conversion equipment on all ends, it's typically used only for point-to-point links, not for lines with branches in between - an example might be connection hydro plants in the wilderness somewhere to more populated areas.

For links between non-synchronized networks, since conversion is needed anyways to match between them.

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-voltage_direct_current and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_HVDC_projects

From that wiki link "Xinjiang - Anhui (China)" line is 1100kV, 10GW power! That's impressive.

HVDC is becoming more common for medium and long distance transmission lines because HVDC doesn't suffer from the "skin effect" where current is carried mostly by the outside of the conductor, and therefore you can transmit more power with less conductor with HVDC. The tradeoff is, it's much easier to step up and step down AC voltage (using solid state transformers)

True, but none of this has changed recently.

The recent change is the fact that high-voltage semiconductors now make step-up/step-down efficient. In many cases, more efficient than purely using transformers (most semiconductor stuff still uses some form of inductive effect--they just do so at MUCH higher frequencies than in the past which allows them to use MUCH smaller components and get much higher efficiencies).

One of the big advantages of AC has to do with switching. If you flip a switch on AC, within about 10 milliseconds the voltage goes to zero as a natural consequence of the waveform irrespective of what current was flowing previously. A switch can interrupt that without much grief.

If you flip a switch on DC, it has to completely stop the current flow in the presence of a large current and/or voltage that will create a conductive plasma. That means a much larger switch for the same level of power.

There is a reason why your ISP has a huge switch and it is often encased in some inert gas. And also why it sounds like a bomb going off if it trips. And why it takes a hydraulic pump to reset.

Side note: The Pacific DC Intertie was the largest in the world until the 3 Gorges Dam interties--and it dated to the Kennedy administration and used vacuum tubes. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_DC_Intertie

Cool, thanks for the additional info. TIL!

Sf has one of them - https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans_Bay_Cable

On a related note, there was a fascinating article on sf's dc grids by Spectrum https://www.google.com/amp/spectrum.ieee.org/tech-history/da... (pardon the amp link)

My office building taps into it to power the old school loading elevator!

In Europe you start to see some projects like that to connect renewable energy sources to consumption areas. The last notable one has a 1.4GW capacity[0] between France and Spain.

[0]: http://www.eib.org/infocentre/stories/all/2015-february-02/c...

I have not heard much about long-distance DC lines in the United States, where AC transmission lines are incredibly common. However, I have read long-distance DC transmission lines are becoming more popular with alternative energy sources in China, such as the Three Gorges Dam project.



The pacific DC intertie is a notable one here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_DC_Intertie

New Zealand has 350kv 1200kw dc link between north and south islands


Oldschool telephone lines.

> For long-distance DC lines, it's a win; the system can use the power.

Do you have a reference for that? They may be more resilient than AC lines, but I doubt these systems are designed to use power generated by solar events.

Fun examples have been old telegraph operators having their lines work without power connected.

As for recent things I didn't even know long range DC still existed.

HVDC transmission is huge in China. Cheap hydroelectric capacity is in the northwestern part of the country, and the big loads are near the east coast. So there are thousand-mile million-volt DC transmission links.

High-voltage DC is becoming more popular, not less.

The technical advance has been the efficiency of high-voltage semiconductors.

65°N 26°E last night: http://www.taivaanvahti.fi/observations/show/66829

I live at 61°30'N or so and there could have been a great show around these parts as well but of course it had to be completely overcast last night. And will most likely be the next couple of nights as well. Frustrating.

I was going to ask if anyone knows whether these storms affect the accuracy of GPS systems. Then I found this:

> In calm conditions, single frequency GPS systems can provide position information with an accuracy of a meter or less. During a severe space weather storm, these errors can increase to tens of meters or more. Dual frequency GPS systems can provide position information accurate to a few centimeters. In this case the two different GPS signals are used to better characterize the ionosphere and remove its impact on the position calculation. But when the ionosphere becomes highly disturbed, the GPS receiver cannot lock on the satellite signal and position information becomes inaccurate. [0]

I'm going to try to figure out whether the navigation system on my boat has a dual frequency system or not. I'd hate to be "tens of meters" off when trying to navigate between submerged rocks, and there are lots of submerged rocks around here.

If anyone wants to share anything more about how these events affect the accuracy of GPS systems, I'd love to hear it.

[0] - http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/impacts/space-weather-and-gps-syste...

Nice resource, thanks!

Note that this is exactly why they teach you not to rely on your gps for navigation between rocks. You should be using sightings, log and compass. And that's why you dont leave anchorage in fog.

Does anyone have any thoughts on any relationships between the recent solar flares and magnetic storms and the hurricanes and Mexican earthquake? Is this coincidence or does major space weather events result in major earth weather? https://www.space.com/38057-sun-unleashes-decades-strongest-...

> There's no obvious pattern between solar activity and seismicity, so our results were inconclusive


http://quakewatch.net/ attempts to predict earthquakes using solar factors (and things like outgoing longwave radiation). https://twitter.com/thereals0s has some snaps of their alert maps leading up to the quake (this one happened to be in their alert zone).

Edit- Also related-site http://spaceweathernews.com/ has a lot of pretty graphs to look at if you're interested in this stuff

That site has an interesting setup where they want you to pay them $2 a month to do work for their app, in return for youtube shoutouts.

Oh, they’re New Age scammers? Haven’t seen that in a while, but you can tell from the magical powers ascribed to anything related to “energy”.


There's also the eclipse preceding these events.

Of course there are relationships, I just don't think most of us (scientists or scientifically inclined) know how to see them, since some of the links are not in the 'rational' space.

Shamans still have better answers than scientists to these kinds of questions, but I don't think that most people want to hear the answers.

Either way something extraordinary is taking place, hopefully it will lead to something positive in the end.

Claiming you have an answer is not preferable to admitting you just don't know.

Dude, you're blowing my mind which your causality warping.

You can't be serious.

Shamans? You think Shamans are a thing? Not only that, you think they are a better thing than scientists?

What kind of Whacky Friday antics is going on here at HN today?

Uh, you sure you are "scientists or scientifically inclined"?

What a load of crock.

Eclipses have nothing whatsoever to do with solar flares, Shamans are con men and have no answers to anything relevant that scientists could not answer better and most people do not want to hear the answers any more than they want to hear other random bullshit.

If the links are not in rational space they do not exist, period.

Turns out, eclipses have everything to do with solar flares and every other phenomena you observe: You.

All of these things happen to you. We've been trained to look at reality as something 'out there', but truth is that reality happens inside your consciousness and it's unclear where mind ends and 'reality' starts. It's unclear if there's anything but consciousness (note that the 'brain' might also be a construct of consciousness).

Shamans - not the con men - devote their life to studying and sharing the relationship between consciousness, mind, nature/universe, what was before birth and what follows after.

There are tools and practices to take you on these voyages where physics and rationality don't apply and if you go there once... to put it lightly, things won't look the same as they did before.

Not a time and place to go deeper, some answers come when we go on to the next stage, but there's a lot more than what the textbooks teach.

Reality exists independent of the observer. If there is some relationship between eclipses and hurricanes or between solar flares and seismic activity, they existed long before life originated on earth and would continue to exist far beyond our extinction. While we should not discount their possibility without some research, there is not much reason to believe there is such a connection without further evidence.

> Reality exists independent of the observer.

This is costing me way too much HN karma lol, I guess nobody likes to get down voted, but try rewording that first statement like this:

Observer exists independent of reality.

If that were true, what could be said about reality ? Who/what is this Observer, is it the same in every being ?

Is it possible to detach the observer from the self ? Yes. People have been doing this since there is history.

I guess that's the whole point I was trying to make.

> Reality exists independent of the observer.

Quantum mechanics would like a word with you.

Don't confuse localization with reality.

You also seem to infer observer is some form of intelligence, in reality an observer or a measurement isn't anything more than a physical interaction.

I am talking about this type of experiments: http://newatlas.com/quantum-theory-reality-anu/37866/

That is just bad journalism. This is localization, let's do a macro entanglement experiment.

I take you and your friend and draw 2 cards out of a deck one red one black.

I give each one of you a card without you or myself knowing which one has which.

You and your friend are now entangled, you share a unit of information if I split you without measurement I "lose" or to be more exact cannot quantify the information.

I know that each of you has a card, I know that together you have one red and one black card and just like entangled particles the moment I measure one of you by asking you to reveal a card the other knows which card they were holding.

This is a very rough experiment but the point stands; reality doesn't change and more importantly again a measurement isn't a scientist with a machine it's a physical interaction.

The particle wasn't localized because a person measured it it was localized because it had to interact with it another physical object which was the detector there isn't a non physical way to measure anything any measurement wil require an exchange of information which means that your system will become localized.

Also hidden variable theories aside, Pilot Wave Theory does make the same predictions as QM, explains the "weirdness"and is deterministic.

Quantum mechanics is about probabilities. Just because there's an infinitesimally small probability of something being possible doesn't make it a foregone conclusion.

You should make sure your carbon monoxide detector is working.

The hell? What training exactly does a Shaman undergo to receive his authentic certificate of Shamanism, and how is this superior to the specialized academic training received by scientists in the fields relevant to this phenomena?

I am starting to think that someone at HAARP went rogue....

Nobody has done that since patch 2.3.2.

I thought it was patch 322

I was flying both a manned aircraft yesterday as well as a very expensive drone. I saw some really weird stuff all day long on both of them.

Do solar flares affect commercial airliners?

Historical reference: For example, there was a pretty big blackout in '89 due to space weather https://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/sun_darkness.html

Looks like they're predicting larger than usual aurora effects as a result: http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/products/aurora-30-minute-forecast

Still not getting too far into the lower 48 states, but looks like there should be good visibility throughout Canada and northern UK.

There was a period last night that there was a maybe small chance it was viewable in WA/OR but naturally it was cloudy. So much for that.

Do solar flares and or geomagnetic storms affect human health?


Possibly stupid question, but could this be related to the earthquake lights seen in Mexico around the recent quake? IE could it be the reason the effect was so pronounced?

So what does this mean?

The scale is explained here: http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/noaa-scales-explanation (click on "Geomagnetic storms")

Ah, lovely. Thanks for the pointer!

Lots of photographers shooting the aurora as it creeps down in latitude.

Might want to drop the 'just' there, since the warning was over as of 11am EST on Sept 8th (today).

This guys [1] apparently predicted the Mexican quake last night. He has an interesting theory regarding connection between Solar activity and earthquakes. Let's hope he's a crank as he's predicting more events for the weekend.

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/user/dutchsinse

Selective recall? Those guys predict a lot of earthquakes. You really have to look at it statistically in terms of all hits and misses of their predictions.

I can predict there will be an earthquake in the pacific ring of the fire in the next 72 hours, but me being right doesn't mean I know anything except that there are a lot of earthquakes in the ring of fire (which is something, but not specific enough to do anything with).

Also, if there is a link between solar activity and earthquakes, earthquakes should show an 11 year cyclic pattern, and they don't.

I agree re. stats, but specific claims he is making is precisely this: for every deep magnitude m there will be compensating shallow magnitude M (> m) along the boundary conditions.

So it isn't just e.g. "earthquake in ring of fire" but rather "strong but shallow earthquakes along west cost and central America". He had also predicted a specific spot in Japan that apparently got hit today with a 4 something. (See his last video.)

Anyway, since now he is predicting a continuity along the fracking zones in the center running East and up to East Coast in the next few days, I guess we'll find out how good his methodology is.

The solar connection he is making is per his conjectured model of Earth (which he claims does not have a solid spinning metal but rather a sort of plasma that gets energy funnled to it via the mag. poles). So one would, as you say, expect to see a pattern of heightened activity correlated with the solar cycles. And I have no idea if that is in fact the case.

Let's see how things pan out.

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