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Space Weather Storms: From Sun to Earth Bob Rutledge NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center Boulder, Colorado November 20th, 2013 FEMA Space Weather Refresher
Outline • The Sun/Solar Cycle • Sequence of Events • Space Weather Phenomena/Impacts • Solar Flares • Radiation Storms • Geomagnetic Storms • Aurora • Information Dissemination 2
What is Space Weather? Space weather refers to the variable conditions on the Sun and in the space environment that can influence the performance and reliability of space and groundbased technological systems, as well as endanger human health. Ionosphere Electromagnetic Radiation Energetic Charged Particles Magnetosphere 3
Sunspots and the Solar Cycle The Sun at Solar Maximum The Sun Today ~27 day full rotation 4
Understanding the Sun http://missionscience.nasa.gov/sun/sunVideo_02solarvariability.html
Solar Cycle 24 Predictions Many of the world’s premier solar physicists gather….
Solar Cycle Predictions • Cycle 23 began in May 1996 • Peak in April 2000 with SSN = 120 • Solar Minimum in December 2008 • Solar Cycle 24 Underway
Large geomagnetic storms can occur with smaller cycles • The largest geomagnetic storms on record occurred during smaller than average cycles (no causality implied) 1859 Storm 1921 Storm 9
Sequence of Events Conditions are Favorable for Activity (Probabilistic Forecasts) Event Occurs Coronal Observations
Sequence of Events Event Onset/ Ground-Based Observation Analysis and Prediction ACE Observation
July 2012 Event The Sun on July 23rd – STEREO AHEAD The Sun on July 11th Region 1520 NASA STEREO Positions
July 2012 Event The Sun on July 11th Region 1520
Space Weather Scales Radiation Storms Geomagnetic Storms http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/NOAAscales/ Radio Blackouts
Event-Driven Product Definitions • Watches; The conditions are favorable for occurrence • Warnings; disturbances that are imminent, expected in the near future with high probability • Alerts; observed conditions meeting or exceeding thresholds
Solar Flares (Radio Blackouts – R Scale) • Arrival: 8 minutes, photons • Duration: Minutes to 3 hours • Daylight-side impacts • Probabilistic 1, 2, 3-day forecasts • Alerts for exceeding R2 (only) • Summary messages post-event 19
March 2012 Impacts on Aviation Comms 7 March 2012: INCERFA was issued for Air Canada 003 (Vancouver to Tokyo) until communications were established with the flight. (INCERFA is issued when there is uncertainty as to the safety of an aircraft and its occupants.) 6-7 March 2012: “Severe impact at 2249Z initially affecting CWP [Central West Pacific] but by 2400Z, impact peaked and was affecting all communications. 25 ATC messages were delayed.” - Air Traffic Communications
Earth’s Role http://missionscience.nasa.gov/sun/sunVideo_04magnetosphere.html
Solar Radiation Storms (S Scale) • Arrival: 10’s of minutes to several hours • Duration: hours to days • Short-term warnings pre-onset • Alert for threshold crossing • Summary post-event
Energy/Emergency Management Challenges Should emergency managers in Florida be worried about this storm? "UPDATE 1 03/07/2012 @ 0943 EST - LightSquared is currently experiencing a satellite network outage over our SkyTerra 1 satellite. Preliminary investigation reveals that a solar event has created an automatic system safeguard as a measure to protect the satellite. The recovery procedures are underway which could take from 4 to 24 hours…….“"UPDATE 9 03/09/2012 @ 0945 hours EST: - Per the previous communication LightSquared continues to work the key procedures to restore Skyterra 1 to service….. The overall restoral procedure required a fundamental reboot of Skyterra 1"
Geomagnetic Storms (G Scale) • Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) create geomagnetic storms • Arrival: ~18 – 96 hours • Duration: Hours to a day or two • Creates ionospheric storms, geomagnetically induced currents, aurora • 1-2 Day watch products based on coronagraph observations and modeling • Short-term (15 -60 min) warnings based on measurement at ACE spacecraft 25
GPS IMPACT – U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) • Intense geomagnetic and ionosphere storms occur on 29 and 30 Oct, 2003 • Acceptable vertical error limits were exceeded for 15 and 11-hour periods METERS
Impacts on Electric Power Grid • CME impacts Earth’s magnetic field • Fluctuations generate electric fields on Earth. These geomagnetically induced currents (GIC) can flow into power lines and transformers • Leads to transformer saturation and over-heating, voltage drops, transformer damage, or protective device trips Transformer winding failure Transformer exit-lead overheating
High Impact/Low Frequency Threat… …but is it a 100 year storm…200 year…?
High Impact/Low Frequency Threat… Media Release: Loss of Reactive Power, Voltage Instability Most Likely Outcome from GMD, NERC Report Finds February 29, 2012 ATLANTA – Loss of reactive power is the most likely outcome from a severe solar storm centered over North America, a report released by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) finds. Significant losses of reactive power could lead to voltage instability and, if not identified and managed appropriately, power system voltage collapse could occur….. …but is it a 100 year storm…200 year…?
The Auroral Ovals Satellite view of the southern lights (Aurora Australis) Slide Credit – Dan Miller, NWS, Duluth
What Determines the Color? Reconnection in the magnetotail causes particles to be accelerated back toward the poles, which interact with the atmosphere, causing atomic oxygen and nitrogen to be excited. As the molecules return to their ground states, they release visible light which we see as the aurora. This is a similar process to a neon sign. Green: oxygen, up to 150 miles in altitude Red : oxygen, above 150 miles in altitude Blue: nitrogen, up to 60 miles in altitude Purple/violet: nitrogen, above 60 miles in altitude Slide Credit – Dan Miller, NWS, Duluth
Information Dissemination • Phone Contact for Critical Stakeholders: NASA, Commercial Airlines, Power Generation and Distribution, FEMA, etc. • Product Subscription Service: Email-based, no cost subscription service open to all • Website: Data, products, and models all available there. Tops News heading that will provide updates for elevated space weather • Facebook: Active updates and education, secondary to official product dissemination means • Active Media Support during significant events
Space Weather Event Alert & Notification – FEMA Alert Conference Call Notification Action Subscriber Email Alerts S 5 G 5 S 4 G 4 R 5 S 3 G 3 Solar Radiation Storms Geomagnetic Storms R 2 Radio Blackouts S 2 G 2 No notifications recommended at these levels S 1 G 1 FOC – FEMA Operations Center FAOC – FEMA Alternate Operations Center ENS – Emergency Notification System NAWAS – National Warning System WAWAS – Washington Metropolitan Area Warning System
Phenomena Reference/Impacts • Solar Flare Radio Blackout (R Scale): • No advance warning • Effects lasts for 10’s of minutes to several hours • Impacts High Frequency (HF) communication on the sunlit side of the Earth • First indication significant S and G scale activity may be possible • Solar Radiation Storm (S Scale): • Warnings possible on the minutes to hours time scale • Elevated levels can persist for several days • Impacts to the health and operation of satellites and International Space Station operations and crew • Impacts High Frequency communication in the polar regions, affecting commercial airline operations • Geomagnetic Storm (G Scale): • Advance notice possible given coronal mass ejection (CME) transit times from Sun to Earth range from just under a day to several days (CMEs being the main driver of significant storms) • In extreme storms, impacts to power grid operations and stability • Impacts to Global Positioning System (GPS) accuracy and availability • Driver of aurora; severe to extreme storms may cause aurora to be visible over most of the lower 48
NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center Boulder, Colorado www.spaceweather.gov