Geomagnetic Storm Watch Released Earth; Potential Impact Late Saturday

  Geomagnetic Storm Watch Released Earth;  Potential Impact Late Saturday

In the latest update from the SWPC, they say the area of impact will primarily be poleward of 60 degrees Geomagnetic Latitude. In this region,  weak power grid fluctuations can occur on Earth. In space, minor impact on satellite operations are possible. Elsewhere, Mother Nature may light up the skies more south than usual;  aurora could be visible at high latitudes across the northern tier of the United States, such as northern Michigan and Maine.

“Enhanced conditions are expected late on January 15 as a recurrent, negative-polarity coronal hole high speed stream (CH HSS) becomes geoeffective,” said the SWPC in their latest Forecast Discussion.

Strong CIRs and the faster CH HSS can impact Earth’s magnetosphere enough to cause periods of geomagnetic storming to the G1-G2 (Minor to Moderate) levels; although rarer cases of stronger storming may also occur.

Coronal holes can develop at any time and location on the Sun, but are more common and persistent during the years around solar minimum.  Coronal holes are most prevalent and stable at the solar north and south poles; but these polar holes can grow and expand to lower solar latitudes. It is also possible for coronal holes to develop in isolation from the polar holes; or for an extension of a polar hole to split off and become an isolated structure. Persistent coronal holes are long-lasting sources for high speed solar wind streams, also known as “CS HSS”.  As the high speed stream interacts with the relatively slower ambient solar wind, a compression region forms, known as a co-rotating interaction region (CIR). According to the SWPC, from the perspective of a fixed observer in interplanetary space, the CIR will be seen to lead the  CH HSS.

Story Highlights

  • According to NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC),  G1-class geomagnetic storm is forecast to impact the planet on January 15.

  • The GOES-16 weather satellite is one tool space weather experts use to monitor the Sun’s activity. Image: NOAA

Chart showing NOAA Space Weather Scales for Geomagnetic Storms. Image: NOAA



The Sun is constantly churning material and magnetic fields which create an ever-changing landscape of features that last from milliseconds to days. NASA developed this infographic to illustrate a few of the most common features that can be seen on the Sun.Image: NASA/Mary Pat Hrybyk-Keith


NOAA forecasters analyze a variety of solar data from spacecraft to determine what impacts a geomagnetic storm could produce.  If Earth is experiencing the effects of a coronal hole and a coronal mass ejection is forecasted to impact Earth, the combined effects could result in a more significant impact and more intense geomagnetic storming. Analyzing data from the DSCOVER and ACE satellite is one way forecasters can tell when the enhanced solar wind from a coronal hole is about to arrive at Earth. A few things they look for in the data to determine when the enhanced solar wind is arriving at Earth:• Solar wind speed increases• Temperature increases• Particle density decreases• Interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) strength increases While these solar events can help illuminate the sky with stunning aurora, they can also do considerable harm to electronics, electrical grids, and satellite and radio communications.

The Northern Lights could come to life in a brilliant way in places more south than usual during the Geomagnetic Storm.