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Geomagnetic storm hits Earth, producing northern lights that disrupt radio communications

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A geomagnetic storm is expected to last until Monday, potentially disrupting radio communications but making for great aurora viewing.

These high-frequency radio transmissions include aircraft attempting to communicate with distant traffic control towers.

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado, issued geomagnetic storm warnings for Sunday and Monday as a “coronal mass ejection” (CME) headed toward Earth. CMEs are large bursts of plasma and magnetic fields from the Sun that reach Earth within 15 to 18 hours.

However, the center said there was no cause for alarm. Jonathan Lash, a meteorologist at the center, said most commercial aircraft could use the satellite feed as a backup.

Satellite operators may have difficulty tracking their spacecraft, and power grids may also experience some “induced current” in their lines, but it’s nothing they can’t handle, he said.

Due to the solar eclipse on April 8th, some US schools will be closed for the day

“If you have clear skies at night and you’re at higher latitudes, this would be a great opportunity for the general public to see the sky light up,” Lash said.

The sun

This image provided by NASA shows the Sun from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) satellite on Saturday, March 23, 2024. (NASA via AP)

Every 11 years, the sun’s magnetic field reverses, meaning the north and south poles change positions. During this cycle, solar activity changes and is now near its most active value, the so-called solar maximum.

During such times, geomagnetic storms like those that hit Sunday can hit Earth several times a year, Lash said. During solar minimum, a few years can pass between storms.

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New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said her state was expecting impacts until 2 a.m. Monday.

“Although there were no reported disruptions to the electrical grid or radio communications, state personnel are actively monitoring and coordinating with industry and federal government stakeholders,” Hochul said.

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