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Extreme Solar Storms

Knowing what this past weekend’s solar storms could cause, we’re taking a look back to see what they did cause. Extreme geomagnetic storms, like the ones we experienced this last weekend, May 10-12, can cause and in the past, have caused all sorts of mayhem. They can create power grid issues leading to blackouts, disruptions in satellites, radio and GPS communications and even issues with space travel. Knowing this, everyone was well warned and on high alert well ahead of our recent storm caused by a sunspot named Sunspot Region 3664.These were the strongest we have seen since 2003.

While power grid operators were prepared for problems, we made it through the weekend unscathed. That was not the case however for farmers using Real-Time Kinematic systems. In short, this system is used by farmers to keep track of everything from where seed was planted to which rows were fertilized. John Deere, the largest user of the system warned farmers to stop planting this weekend, because the GPS portion of the system wasn’t functioning properly due to the solar storm. Most farmers in the Midwest have to get their corn planted by this Wednesday to get crops harvested on time this summer. There were also reports of drones not working properly during the storms. 

The other thing that did happen during the storm is that millions of people were able to actually see the Aurora Borealis. For perspective, the last time they were visible in the state of Florida was in 1989 and before that, 1941. This rare glimpse was seen as far south as Puerto Rico. There are no known future dates for more solar storms at this time although we can expect more. The sun is in a phase known as solar maximum. Solar flares are likely to continue for a while. 

The Northern Lights from my own northern Missouri backyard

Did you get to see the Aurora Borealis? If you did, please share your experience and photo if you were able to take one in the comments section or on our social media.

Violet Wisdom

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