Planning for a Carrington Event super solar storm

Electricity-Pylon-Tower

My buddy, Bill Forstchen, is author of NY Times best seller, One Second After (and many other books). One day, we met for lunch and I admitted to him that I’m less worried about an EMP attack (the catalyst for writing his novel) than I am a powerful solar storm, like the Carrington Event. Bill, you see, is a huge advocate for having our power grid and emergency services prepared/”hardened” for either of these two events.

Last week, I was impressed to see that the White House released a multi-agency plan and strategy to prepare for a severe space weather event.

WashingtonPostLogoThe Washington Post published a summary:

At some point in our lifetimes, the sun could unleash a dangerous surge of magnetically-charged plasma that could severely damage or destroy critically important electric power systems, satellites, spacecraft and telecommunications.

The White House, realizing that an extreme solar storm could jeopardize the nation’s vitality and security, released a strategy and multi-agency plan on Thursday to prepare for and coordinate responses to the space weather threat.

[…]In 2012, NASA said the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with Earth. “If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado told NASA two years after it happened.

[…]The most severe documented solar storm to impact Earth, known as the Carrington Event, occurred in September 1859, well before today’s power grid and network of satellites existed.

During the Carrington event, the northern lights were seen as far south as Cuba and Hawaii, according to historical accounts. The solar eruption “caused global telegraph lines to spark, setting fire to some telegraph offices,” NASA noted.

A National Academy of Sciences study in 2008 said a similar event happening today could produce a devastating economic impact exceeding $2 trillion, 20 times the cost of Hurricane Katrina.

A key component of the White House plan is to establish benchmarks for space weather events.  “They provide a point of reference from which to improve the understanding of space weather effects, develop more effective mitigation procedures, enhance response and recovery planning and understand risk,” the plan says.

Some recent studies have shown that there is historical evidence of the sun producing “superflares,” or flares 1,000 times larger than what has been observed in modern times.

[…]The 2008 National Academy of Sciences report said power outages after an extreme solar storm could last months or longer, since transformers take a long time to replace. A report from North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) from 2012, on behalf of the industry, was not as dire, noting that geomagnetic storms are more likely to cause blackouts and short-term power loss rather than such sustained damage.

This is just an excerpt–I encourage you to read the full article on the Washington Post website.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) also published the following fact sheet, outlining a space weather action plan:

FACT SHEET: New Actions to Enhance National Space-Weather Preparedness

Space-weather events are naturally occurring phenomena in the space environment that have the potential to disrupt technologies and systems in space and on Earth. These phenomena can affect satellite and airline operations, communications networks, navigation systems, the electric power grid, and other technologies and infrastructures critical to the daily functioning, economic vitality, and security of our Nation. That’s why today, the Administration is releasing a National Space Weather Strategy and National Space Weather Action Plan and announcing new commitments from the Federal and non-Federal sectors to enhance national preparedness for space-weather events.

National Space Weather Strategy and National Space Weather Action Plan

Over the last several years, both industry and the Federal government have played an active role in maintaining and advancing the Nation’s ability to forecast and mitigate the various impacts of space weather. These actions include taking steps to replace aging satellite assets essential to monitoring and forecasting space weather, proposing space-weather standards for both the national and international air space, developing regulations to ensure the continued operation of the electric grid during an extreme space weather event, proposing a new option for replacing crucial Extra High Voltage (EHV) transformers damaged by space weather, and developing domestic production sources for EHV transformers.

Yet gaps remain in our capacity to understand, model, predict, respond to, and recover from space-weather events. The newly released National Space Weather Strategy (Strategy) and Space Weather Action Plan (Action Plan) were developed by an interagency group of experts, with input from stakeholders outside of the Federal government, to clearly articulate how the Federal government will work to fill these gaps by coordinating, integrating, and expanding existing policy efforts; engaging a broad range of sectors; and collaborating with international counterparts. The Strategy identifies goals and establishes the guiding principles that will guide these efforts in both the near and long term, while the Action Plan identifies specific activities, outcomes, and timelines that the Federal government will pursue accordingly. The Action Plan broadly aligns with investments proposed in the President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2016 and will be reevaluated and updated within 3 years of the date of publication or as needed.

Taken together, the Strategy and Action Plan will facilitate the integration of spaceweather considerations into Federal planning and decision making to achieve preparedness levels consistent with national policies, and enhance the resilience of critical technologies infrastructures to the potentially debilitating effects of space weather on the people, economy, and security of the United States.

Supporting Commitments to Enhance Space-Weather Preparedness

Today, Federal agencies and non-Federal entities are announcing new actions to support the Strategy and Action Plan and further enhance national space-weather preparedness.

Releasing New Space Environment Data. The U.S. Air Force (USAF), in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will provide Space Environment Data from the current GPS constellation and other U.S. Government satellites. This data could be used to validate space-weather forecast models, potentially enhancing space-weather prediction capabilities. As a first step, USAF and NOAA will make data from January 2014 – a month characterized by a high level of solar activity – freely available on data.gov, providing an opportunity for users to explore the scientific value of the data. Within three months of this release, the Office of Science and Technology Policy will chair an interagency group to evaluate the utility of the released data and to determine if the open data archive should be expanded to include additional historical and near real-time data.

Launching a Space Weather Data Initiative. In accordance with President Obama’s Executive Order on making open and machine-readable the new default for government information, as well as on demonstrated successes of unleashing innovation and technology for disaster response and recovery, the Administration will launch a Space Weather Data Initiative. The goals of this Initiative are to (1) make easily accessible and freely available on data.gov an unprecedented amount of space weatherrelated data; (2) engage with the private sector and the open-data community to leverage the open data and promote the development of data-driven tools, applications, and technology to enhance space-weather preparedness; and (3) expand U.S. Government capacity for using open data, innovation, and technology to support effective and efficient response to and recovery from space-weather events.

Increasing International Collaboration. To strengthen international coordination and cooperation on space-weather preparedness, the Department of State will organize workshops and meetings in Washington, DC with embassy staff from a multitude of nations. These workshops and meetings will provide an opportunity for other countries to learn more about the purpose and goals of the National Space Weather Strategy and accompanying Action Plan; ensure that policymakers in and leaders of partner nations recognize space weather as a global challenge; and facilitate the sustained, coordinated participation of partner nations in relevant international space-weather initiatives.

Including Space Weather in Transportation “Fundamentals” Reports. Space weather can affect communication and navigation systems that are critical for safe and efficient transportation systems. By incorporating space-weather considerations into two reports that provide comprehensive and up-to-date guidance on the major elements of a state’s all-hazards transportation security and emergency management program – Security 101: A Physical Security Primer for Transportation, and A Guide to Emergency Response Planning at State Transportation Agencies –officials will have the information they need to incorporate space-weather considerations into transportation-security guidelines and emergency-response plans. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) – a nonprofit association representing highway and transportation departments in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico – will ensure that space weather is included in the next edition of these two AASHTO Special Committee on Transportation Security and Emergency Management “fundamentals” reports.

Incorporating Space Weather into Emergency-Management Training and Activities. Space-weather events can, directly or indirectly, cause or exacerbate major disasters or emergencies, and can interfere with or impair disaster response, relief, and recovery efforts. The National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) – a professional association of and for emergency management directors, dedicated to enhancing public safety by improving the nation’s ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from all emergencies and disasters – will increase training and education related to space weather. Specifically, NEMA will:

  • Partner with the International Association of Emergency Managers to host a
    space-weather focused webinar for members of both groups, reaching up to 1200
    state and local emergency managers, and others working in the emergencymanagement
    field;
  • Incorporate space weather into training and education opportunities for newly
    appointed state emergency management directors; and
  • Incorporate space weather into the NEMA Homeland Security Committee’s
    policy focus on infrastructure resilience.

Raising Awareness of Space Weather in the Aviation Sector. As part of their commitment to promote safety, security and a healthy U.S. airline industry, Airlines for America – America’s largest airline trade association – will work with member carriers and their affiliates to educate the community on space weather and its effects on aviation, which include degradation or loss of satellite navigation signals and radio transmissions for communication.

G4-class geomagnetic storm in progress

(Source: NASA) The geomagnetic storm began as forecasted and quickly ramped up to severe (G4)  levels.  In Europe watchers should be looking for the aurora now and there is hope for those over the US tonight.

(Source: NASA) The geomagnetic storm began as forecasted and quickly ramped up to severe (G4) levels. In Europe watchers should be looking for the aurora now and there is hope for those over the US tonight.

Depending on where you live, this G4 geomagnetic storm may completely disrupt the HF band conditions. From Spaceweather.com:

SEVERE GEOMAGNETIC STORM IN PROGRESS: A severe G4-class geomagnetic storm is in progress on June 22nd. This follows a series of rapid-fire CME strikes to Earth’s magnetic field during the past 24 hours. Magnetic fields in the wake of the latest CME are strongly coupled to Earth’s own magnetic field. This is a condition that could sustain the geomagnetic storm for many hours to come. High- and mid-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras tonight, especially during the hours around local midnight.

On the up side, after this is over, there may be some excellent, short-term band openings. My buddy, David Goren, also reminds us that this is a good time to keep an eye on the broadcast bands for auroral conditions.

Yet another incoming CME

Screen capture via Spaceweather.com

Screen capture via Spaceweather.com

Many thanks to my good friend Mike Hansgen (K8RAT) who notes that another CME may affect the HF bands tomorrow. Spaceweather.com has posted an update:

“GREEN SKIES FOR ST. PATRICK’S DAY? Yesterday, a CME billowed away from the sun’s western limb: SOHO movie. The massive cloud could deliver a glancing blow to our planet’s magnetic field on March 17th, filling Arctic skies with green auroras just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. NOAA forecasters estimate a 40% chance of geomagnetic storms on March 17th, increasing to 60% on March 18th as Earth passes through the CME’s turbulent wake.

The incoming CME was propelled into space by sunspot AR2297. During the early hours of March 15th, the sunspot’s magnetic canopy erupted in tandem with a nearby magnetic filament.[…]

[Read more at Spaceweather.com…]

NOAA notes that there is a 50% chance this CME will cause geomagnetic storms, thus potential for unsettled HF band conditions.

X-class solar flare causes radio blackout

X-class-Flare

(Image source: Screen capture from NASA video)

(Source: Discovery News)

The sun has erupted with its first X-class solar flare of 2015, a not-so-subtle reminder that it can still muster the energy required to generate the most powerful class of solar explosion.

The magnetic eruption occurred yesterday (Wednesday) at 12:22 p.m. ET (16:22 UT), lighting up a huge area in the lower solar corona (the sun’s magnetically dominated ‘atmosphere’). Shortly after the huge eruption, that measured X2 on the scale of flare energy, Spaceweather.com reports a radio blackout was detected over large swathes of the globe, including much of the Americas.

“The X-flare scrambled the ionosphere thoroughly so that no decametric radio signals were supported in my part of the world,” said amateur radio astronomer Thomas Ashcraft. “The ionosphere started to reform after about fifteen minutes when stations began to reappear. (The stuff visible during the blackout was my own observatory electricity. Nothing exterior.)”

Based in New Mexico, Ashcraft reports that the blackout was most obvious in the frequency range of 15 MHz to 26 MHz.

[Continue reading at Discovery News…]

Good news? There may be some HF band openings in the wake of this flare. We shall see.

Radio blackout: X-Ray Event exceeds X1

latest_sxi

I’ve heard from several of you this morning that the shortwave bands are dead.

It’s not your radio…it’s our sun. We’re currently experiencing an X-ray event exceeding X1 on the NOAA Space Weather Scale. This equates to wide area blackout of HF radio communication and loss of radio contact for about an hour on sunlit side of Earth.

SWLing Post reader, Richard Langley, shares this space weather alert from NOAA:

Space Weather Message Code: SUMX01
Serial Number: 105
Issue Time: 2014 Oct 22 1454 UTC

SUMMARY: X-ray Event exceeded X1
Begin Time: 2014 Oct 22 1402 UTC
Maximum Time: 2014 Oct 22 1428 UTC
End Time: 2014 Oct 22 1450 UTC
X-ray Class: X1.6
Optical Class: 2b
Location: S14E13
NOAA Scale: R3 – Strong

NOAA Space Weather Scale descriptions can be found at
www.swpc.noaa.gov/NOAAscales

Potential Impacts: Area of impact consists of large portions of the sunlit side of Earth, strongest at the sub-solar point.

Radio – Wide area blackout of HF (high frequency) radio communication for about an hour.

Fear not, this shall eventually pass and SWLing will return to normal. Indeed, you might even catch a few rare band openings between event. I believe you can expect overall unsettled conditions near term, based on recent solar history.

Incredible band openings tonight

X1.6 Solar Flare, sunspot 2158 (source: Solar Ham)

X1.6 Solar Flare, sunspot 2158 (source: Solar Ham)

After an X class solar flare that caused a serious HF radio black-out earlier today, we’ve been rewarded with superb radio conditions this evening in North America.

This is, perhaps, one of the best temporary band openings I’ve experienced this year.  Unfortunately, there’s a good chance an incoming CME could wipe out the bands again in the next 12-24 hours. Check out the forecast here: http://www.solarham.net/

But who cares? The following are just some of the stations I logged on 25 and 31 meters this evening.  Note that I didn’t include all of the weak stations I could hear and I also omitted many CRI, RHC, and religious broadcasts:

Starting 22:00 UTC on 25 meters

  • 11780 RN da Amazonia
  • 11810 KBS World Radio
  • 11820 Radio Riyadh
  • 11855 Radio Aparecida
  • 11880 RHC French
  • 11915 Radio Riyadh
  • 11930 Radio Marti
  • 11940 Radio Romania International
  • 11965 RHC? (French)
  • 12050 EWTN (WEWN)

Starting 23:00 UTC on 31 meters

  • 9420 Voice of Iran
  • 9535 Radio Exterior de Espana
  • 9575 Radio Mediterranee International
  • 9620 Radio Exterior de Espana
  • 9645 Radio Bandeirantes
  • 9665 Radio Voz Missionaria (with WRM from other broadcasters)
  • 9740 Radio Romania International (Spanish)
  • 9765 Radio Romania International
  • 9795 FEBC Radio (under heavy QRM)
  • 9850 Radio Tirana
  • 9855 Radio Australia
  • 9875 Radio Free Asia (Tibetan)
  • 9900 (RA?) English
  • 9965 Radio Cairo
  • 10000 WWV

Staring 00:00 UTC on 31 meters

  • 9420 Voice of Iran, then ERT Open (VOG)
  • 9500 Radio Sultanate of Oman
  • 9520 Radio Romania International (Romanian)
  • 9535 Radio Exterior de Espana
  • 9550 Radio Boa Ventade
  • 9570 China Radio International English
  • 9530 Radio Transmundial
  • 9620 Radio Exterior de Espana
  • 9630 China National Radio 1
  • 9645 Radio Bandeirantes
  • 9665 Radio Voz Missionaria
  • 9690 All India Radio
  • 9700 Radio Romania International
  • 9710 China Radio International (Portuguese)
  • 9730 Adventist World Radio (Burmese)
  • 9800 China Radio International (Spanish)
  • 9810 Radio Havana Cuba
  • 9820 Radio 9 de Julho
  • 9880 Voice of America (Chinese)
  • 9930 The Overcomer Ministry
  • 9955 Radio Marti ?
  • 9965 Radio Cairo
  • 10000 WWV

Staring at 01:00 UTC on 25 meters

  • 11580 The Overcomer Ministry
  • 11590 NHK Radio Japan (Hindi)
  • 11620 All India Radio (Urdu)
  • 11640 Radio Free Asia (Uyghur)
  • 11650 China Radio International (Chinese)
  • 11670 Radio Havana Cuba (Spanish)
  • 11695 Radio Free Asia (Tibetan) ? QRM from another station
  • 11711 Radio Argentina Exterior
  • 11730 Vatican Radio (Tamil)
  • 11740 All India Radio (Sinhala)
  • 11760 Radio Havana Cuba (Spanish)
  • 11765 Radio Tupi – Super Radio Deus e Amor
  • 11780 RN da Brasilia
  • 11815 Radio Brasil Central
  • 11825 The Overcomer Ministry
  • 11840 Radio Havana Cuba (Spanish)
  • 11855 Radio Aparecida
  • 11870 EWTN – WEWN (Spanish)
  • 11905 Sri Lanka BC (English/Hindi)
  • 11925 Radio Bandeirantes
  • 11945 Radio Free Asia (Uyghur) & jamming noise
  • 11955 Radio Romania International (French)
  • 11980 China Radio International (Amoy) – vy faint
  • 11995 BBC (Hindi) vy faint
  • 12005 Voice of Vietnam (English)
  • 12020 Voice of America – Deewa Radio (Pashto)
  • 12025 UNID (Spanish / religious)
  • 12070 POssible Radio Cairo behind strong jamming or transmitter noise
  • 12105 WTWW (English)
  • 12115 Radio Free Asia (Burmese)?

Enjoy this opening while it lasts! As my buddy Mike (K8RAT) suggested earlier today, we may be rewarded with further openings if the incoming CME only glances Earth–not probable, but possible.

I’m curious how conditions have been in other parts of the world? If you’ve been enjoying this band opening, please comment with stations you’ve logged.

Geomagnetic storms in weekend forecast

(Source: SpaceWeather.com)

(Source: SpaceWeather.com)

Heads up! Geomagnetic storms may make it a challenge to hear the test broadcast of Hamburger Lokalradio this weekend or any shortwave broadcaster for that matter.

Full details at Spaceweather.com and the ARRL (below):

(Source: ARRL)

Spaceweather.com reports a strong geomagnetic storm is in progress as Earth passes through a region of south-pointing magnetism in the solar wind. The storm has generated auroral displays as far south as Kansas in the US. The NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center indicates the storm is a G3 level event. WWV announced at 0900 UTC, “Geomagnetic storms reaching the G3 level are likely” over the next 24 hours. NOAA says that in a G3 level storm, HF radio may be intermittent. Calculated band conditions reported on the DX Summit site indicate “poor” conditions on 80 through 10 meters. WWV reported the estimated planetary K index at 0900 UTC was 5 (the 0600 UTC figure was 7). […] A coronal mass ejection (CME) is expected to deliver a glancing blow to Earth’s magnetic field late on June 30 or early on July 1.