Recent advances in coronagraph data have shed new light on coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and Geomagnetic storms, revealing fascinating acceleration patterns as they journey from the sun to the Earth. These breakthroughs have linked CMEs closely with solar flares and the resulting geomagnetic storms, uncovering an intricate dance of cosmic events. As scientists delve deeper into this solar activity cycle, one question looms large: Should we expect a G5 storm in the future?
We should expect a G5 geomagnetic storm in the future, as coronagraph and many other studies show. These sometimes extremely dangerous storms intensify when solar cycle activity peaks every 11 years, particularly when the sun’s magnetic poles reverse, unleashing tons of magnetically charged matter into the solar system.
On the brighter side, it’s fortunate that these magnetically charged G5 level geomagnetic storm particles have not directly collided with Earth recently. We can only hope this good fortune continues, because as we have said before, it is not if, but when one of these storms makes direct head on contact with the Earth. Science and governments can save human lives by upgrading our power grids, and our reliance on ongoing predictions remains strong.
So, what do the current predictions say about G5 geomagnetic storms? If you want proof, read on and check out the verifiable and sited links to find out.
Current Studies on Geomagnetic Storms
Solar flares, sunspots, and coronal mass ejections are responsible for geomagnetic storms. Over the years, these storms have disrupted daily life by causing space satellite loses, communication disruptions, and power grid collapses, among other calamities. Given the level of widespread electronic technology in our society today, we are now even more susceptible to the effects of a geomagnetic storm’s than in the past.
Space experts still regard the Carrington Event, also known as the superstorm, as the most powerful G5 or greater geomagnetic storm on record. However, new data suggests that the May 1921 G5 geomagnetic storm might be tied with the Carrington Event as the two most powerful storms that we can quantify. It’s possible that the May 1921 event was more intense than the Carrington Event, or it had a greater impact than the one in 1859.
Research reveals that the 1921 geomagnetic storm affected regions far beyond the United States and was classified as a 100-year storm, but G5 geomagnetic storms actually occur 4 days per every 11 year solar cycle according to NOAA. Most giant geomagnetic superstorms miss the Earth, (sometimes narrowly) travelling into adjacent space and do nothing to us humans.
Residents in Sweden experienced the 1921 geomagnetic solar storms impacts that caused a fire at the telegraph station in Karlstad and other fires in places around the world. People living close to the Equator in Samoa witnessed colorful auroral displays, even in low-altitude areas. Notably, residents in Paris and Arizona observed these auroral phenomena.
Geomagnetic Super Storm Reports
Much important information is being generated on geomagnetic superstorms, their causes and effects. From the geomagnetic superstorm on November 20th, 2003, to information from a report titled Extreme Space Weather: Impacts on Engineered Systems and Infrastructure Summary Report by the Royal Academy of Engineering.
But the Royal Academy Report report falls substantially short of describing what would happen to our current satellite infrastructure and the drag effect orbiting the earth today. Another recent NASA report released on December 11, 2023 titled Geomagnetic Storm Causes Satellite Loss describes how, on February 2022, a Coronal Mass Ejection Geomagnetic Storm led to 38 commercial satellites de-orbiting, crashing to earth and being destroyed.
While comparing the Carrington, 1921, and 2003 events is intriguing, the crucial takeaway is not which event was more intense. What is most important is acknowledging the real possibility of a catastrophic geomagnetic storm occurring in the future.
What the United States Is Doing to Avert a Surprise G5 Storm
Recommended Reading: Are CMEs A Threat To Earth? and How Much Will It Cost You to Get a Solar Generator?
NASA is at the forefront of the U.S. efforts to ensure that citizens are not surprised by an inevitable G5 storm hitting our planet. Currently, NASA uses sentinel spacecraft, such as the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE), which is specifically designed to monitor solar wind space events, and provide timely warnings to Earth.
NASA uses this spacecraft to relay crucial information that space scientists interpret and utilize to issue warnings to the United States and world population. For instance, if the spacecraft detects an incoming solar storm heading toward Earth, timely alerts could help people find safety and save lives.
Furthermore, NASA anticipates that these warnings will be issued early enough to allow authorities to shut down power grids and satellites preemptively, thereby minimizing the potential impacts of a dangerous G5 geomagnetic storm as much as possible.
How Reliable Are NOAA G5 Geomagnetic Storm Predictions?
|Effect / Reaction NOAA Space Weather Solar Geomagnetic Storm Scale
(1 cycle = 11 years)
|Power systems: Some power grid systems may experience complete collapse or blackouts. Transformers may experience damage.
Spacecraft operations: May experience extensive surface charging, problems with orientation, uplink/downlink, and tracking satellites.
Other systems: HF (high frequency) radio transmission may be impossible in many areas for days or more.
|4 per 11-year cycle
(4 days per cycle)
|Power systems: Possible widespread voltage control problems and some protective systems will mistakenly trip out key assets from the grid.
Spacecraft operations: Possible surface charging, tracking, and orientation problems.
Other systems: HF radio propagation is sporadic, satellite navigation is degraded for hours, and low-frequency radio navigation is disrupted.
|100 per 11-year cycle
(60 days per cycle)
|Power systems: Voltage corrections may be required, and false alarms triggered on some protection devices.
Spacecraft operations: Surface charging and drag may increase on low-Earth-orbit satellites, and corrections may be needed for orientation problems.
Other systems: Intermittent satellite navigation and low-frequency radio navigation problems may occur, and HF radio may be intermittent.
|200 per 11-year cycle
(130 days per cycle)
|Power systems: High-latitude power systems may experience voltage alarms, and long-duration storms may cause transformer damage.
Spacecraft operations: Corrective actions required and possible changes in drag affect orbit predictions.
Other systems: HF radio propagation can fade at higher latitudes.
|600 per 11-year cycle
(360 days per cycle)
|Power systems: Weak power grid fluctuations can occur.
Spacecraft operations: Minor impact on satellite operations possible.
Other systems: Migratory animals are affected at G1 and higher levels.
|1700 per 11-year cycle
(900 days per cycle)
On March 24, 2023, a powerful solar storm unexpectedly hit Earth. Despite the advanced forecasting technologies, space weather forecasters admitted that they did not see the storm coming. The storm reached a G4 level on the 5-grade scale used by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for classifying the severity of space weather events.
Remarkably, the storm was intense enough to create auroral lights and caused a 90-minute delay in Rocket Lab’s launch schedule. Later studies revealed that this G4 storm was caused by a ‘stealth’ coronal mass ejection (CME), which was difficult to detect because of its characteristics.
In 2023, NOAA’s National Space Weather Service issued geomagnetic storm watches for the period of March 23 to March 25. This was primarily in response to the expected effects of a coronal hole high-speed stream. Additionally, space scientists had observed a CME leaving the sun on March 20, which they believed was heading toward Earth.
As part of these announcements, the National Space Weather Service predicted potential disturbances in the solar wind field, attributed to the combined influences of a co-rotating interaction region and a coronal hole high-speed stream.
These were expected to cause G1 storm levels on March 23 and a possible G2 level storm on March 24. They also forecasted that solar wind speeds could exceed 600 km/s on March 25.
However, despite these elaborate and detailed predictions, the expected events did not occur as forecasted. Instead, an event that had not been predicted by the space weather scientists took place, highlighting the unpredictability and challenges in accurately forecasting events such as G5 storms.
What did happen was what Tech Evaluate posted notice of the Solar Storm Watch WARNING: Geomagnetic G4 Storm that occurred on 3-24-23 and another G4 storm that took place only one month later almost to the day and was shown by our article, Solar Storm Watch WARNING: Geomagnetic Sudden Impulse Occurred & G4 Storm Predicted on 4-23-23.
Why Did The Space Weather Community Get It Wrong?
Tamitha Skov comprehensively explained on Space.com about why the space weather community was unexpectedly surprised despite the country’s reliance on their warnings to avoid or prepare for geomagnetic storms.
According to Tamitha, one of the main challenges is that geomagnetic storms are nearly invisible and typically launch more slowly than the more eruptive CMEs (coronal mass ejections). Simply put, accurately predicting an impending geomagnetic storm is difficult because they are hard to detect when leaving the sun’s surface.
Furthermore, Tamitha Skov highlighted that stealth CMEs can often be concealed by other denser structures ejecting from the sun simultaneously. It is these structures that hinder the detection of CMEs, leading to unexpected geomagnetic storms.
The anticipation of a G5 geomagnetic storm in the future is a significant genuine concern, and it is not if but when one will hit earth? The effects on our satellites, GPS, and power grids could be grave.
This topic is not addressed enough by our society as a whole, especially as the sun approaches the peak of its 11-year activity cycle. The world either hides or underplays the significant impact a direct impact G5 or greater Geomagnetic storm could have on our planet.
Current predictions suggest that a G5 geomagnetic solar storm will occur. The primary threat of such storms lies in their potential to disrupt electronic technology, particularly the electrical power grids that are essential for critical services such as heat, food, water, sewer, municipalities, gas stations, transportation, traffic signals, and including hospitals and intensive care units.
These storms rarely have a direct impact on Earth and human health, so we have been lucky in the 20th century, but it has also made us complacent. The sun’s 11-year activity cycle is a recurring natural phenomenon, and Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) infrequently target Earth, which is why G5 storms are relatively rare occurrences. This understanding helps in preparing and mitigating the potential impacts of such powerful solar events.
- AGU Publications: The Great Storm of May 1921: An Exemplar of a Dangerous Space Weather Event
- Intensity and Impact of the New York Railroad Superstorm of May 1921 – Love – 2019 – Space Weather – Wiley Online Library
- NASA SVS | Geomagnetic Storm Causes Satellite Loss
- Scientific American: New Studies Warn of Cataclysmic Solar Superstorms
- Understanding the Origins of Problem Geomagnetic Storms Associated with “Stealth” Coronal Mass Ejections
- Space Weather Prediction Center: G1-G2 (Minor-Moderate) Geomagnetic Storm Watches 23-25 March, 2023
- Space.com: Strongest Solar Storm in Nearly 6 Years Slams Into Earth Catching Forecasters By Surprise
- Space@APL: ACE
- Impacts of Severe Space Weather on the Electric Grid
- Strongest solar storm in nearly 6 years slams into Earth catching forecasters by surprise