A strong solar flare erupted from the Sun Tuesday night at 7:04pm EST. The storm ranks as an S3 (Strong) Solar Radiation Storm, creating an R3 (Strong) Radio Blackout, and ranks as a geomagnetic storm of G2 (Moderate) level. This activity orginates from March 5th. At the time of this writing, the January 2012 Solar Radiation Storm was stronger than the current storm. The current storm has been affecting HF communications in the polar regions, rendering HF unusable at the highest latitudes. There are several confirmed reports of commercial airlines avoiding the polar routes because of the disruption to HF communication.
The current storm affected the sunlit side of the Earth (Pacific Ocean longitudes at the time). The level of Radio Blackout activity associated with this storm is not as strong as what was observed in August 2011. The primary impact was a temporary degradation of High Frequency communications affecting communication with commercial aircraft over the Pacific.
At the time of this writing, the January 2012 Solar Radiation Storm was a stronger geomagnetic storm than the current storm.
More geomagnetic activity is expected after midnight Eastern time tonight (Tuesday night) with the arrival of the coronal mass ejection associated with Tuesday’s R3 event. Storm periods reaching the G3 (Strong) level are likely. G3 levels are not likely to cause damage or protective device trips in power grid elements. The activity could cause Global Positioning System errors, resulting in impacts to users with high-accuracy requirements (surveying, precision navigation, etc). We could also see the aurora from the northernmost states in the “Lower 48”.
The region of the Sun responsible for this activity, NOAA Region 1429, remains potent and subsequent activity is possible throughout the next 10 days as this region rotates across the visible disk and out of view.