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Solar storms could cause power disruptions

A rare solar flare erupted from the sun on December 28 and is headed toward Earth at millions of miles per hour. The storm could create problems with technology while putting on an atmospheric show for some.

Scientists are on watch for the G3 level geomagnetic storm which is expected to hit Earth Wednesday and last through New Year’s Eve.

“The G3 is level three on a scale of one to six of geomagnetic activity,” said Terry Onsager, a physicist with the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center. “That’s a measure of how much the Earth’s magnetic field on the ground gets disturbed.”

The solar event is considered moderate but still powerful enough to create some disturbance with technology.

“[The solar event] can drive currents through the power grid system that causes various issues with power generation and transmission,” said, Onsager.

Power grids could also be impacted. Officials with NV Energy said crews are on standby should anything happen.

A solar event of this size even has the capability of compromising GPS signals that many people depend on for personal navigation. However, experts don’t expect that interference to get you too off-target.

In a rare display not visible from Las Vegas, this solar storm could put on a stunning show for at least part of the country, pushing the Northern Lights as far south as Oregon, Iowa, and Pennsylvania.

“Certainly a storm of this magnitude would cause spectacular Aurora borealis at the high latitudes but, of course, it has to be night,” said Onsager.

This would mark the third time Earth has seen a solar event of this size in 2015.

The Space Weather Prediction Center at NOAA expects the solar storm to hit within the next few hours but the “storm watch” has been extended all the way through New Year’s Eve.

You can find updates on the geomagnetic storm at the Space Weather Prediction Center website.


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