What is meant by Geomagnetic Storm? What is its impact on Earth?
A geomagnetic storm is a major disturbance of Earth’s magnetosphere that occurs when there is a very efficient exchange of energy from the solar wind into the space environment surrounding Earth. These storms result from variations in the solar wind that produces major changes in the currents, plasmas, and fields in Earth’s magnetosphere. The solar wind conditions that are effective for creating geomagnetic storms are sustained (for several to many hours) periods of high-speed solar wind, and most importantly, a southward directed solar wind magnetic field (opposite the direction of Earth’s field) at the dayside of the magnetosphere. This condition is effective for transferring energy from the solar wind into Earth’s magnetosphere.
Impact on earth
- Not all solar flares reach Earth, but solar flares/storms, solar energetic particles (SEPs), high-speed solar winds, and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that come close can impact space weather in near-Earth space and the upper atmosphere.
- Solar storms can hit operations of space-dependent services like global positioning systems (GPS), radio, and satellite communications.
- Geomagnetic storms interfere with high-frequency radio communications and GPS navigation systems. The local heating also creates strong horizontal variations in the in the ionospheric density that can modify the path of radio signals and create errors in the positioning information provided by GPS.
- Geomagnetic storms can cause geomagnetic induced currents (GICs) in power grids and pipelines.
- Storms can cause the appearance of beautiful auroras, also known as the northern and southern lights.
- Storms also result in intense currents in the magnetosphere, changes in the radiation belts, and changes in the ionosphere, including heating the ionosphere and upper atmosphere region called the thermosphere.
- CMEs, with ejectiles loaded with matter travelling at millions of miles an hour, can potentially create disturbances in the magnetosphere, the protective shield surrounding the Earth.
- Flights of aircraft and space exploration programmes are also at risk. During geomagnetic storms, passengers in aeroplanes are exposed to more harmful radiation, and sensitive electronics onboard are also affected.
- During storms, the currents in the ionosphere, as well as the energetic particles that precipitate into the ionosphere add energy in the form of heat that can increase the density and distribution of density in the upper atmosphere, causing extra drag on satellites in low-earth orbit.
- Astronauts on spacewalks face health risks from possible exposure to solar radiation outside the Earth’s protective atmosphere.
Solar physicists and other scientists use computer models to predict solar storms and solar activities in general. Current models can predict the arrival time and speed of a storm. However, the structure or orientation of the storm cannot be predicted. Certain magnetic field orientations can cause the magnetosphere to respond more intensely, resulting in more intense magnetic storms.
With the increasing global reliance on satellites for almost every activity, better space weather forecasts and more effective ways to protect satellites are required.
How to structure
- Give an intro about Geomagnetic Storm
- Explain more about it, use figures/diagrams
- Explain its impact on various arenas- technology, life forms, etc.
- Mention any recent incidents/ developments & Suggest way forward