Met Office guide to space weather forecasts

Met-Office

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike (K8RAT), who writes:

The Met Office has this brief introduction to the subject of space weather and the methods they use to make predictions. It may be useful to beginners in the radio hobby.

This download is found on The Met Office’s forecast page:
http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/

They are not giving us any good news regarding the next couple of days on HF.

Click here to download the Met Office guide: “Space Weather: Find out more about how we forecast space weather” (PDF).

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.

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.

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.

Telegraph operations in the Great Auroral Storm of 1859

Sunspots of September 1, 1859, as sketched by Richard Carrington A and B mark the initial positions of an intensely bright event, which moved over the course of 5 minutes to C and D before disappearing. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

These days, CMEs and solar flares get a great deal of media attention. But it’s mostly speculation–for even with our advanced abilities to measure the potential impact, we can’t be sure what will happen each time this occurs. Might this solar flare be strong enough to damage our satellites and electrical infrastructure? we may wonder. Could it ‘fry’ our electrical grid?

The concerns are merely speculative. But is there actual cause for concern? Surely. A massive solar flare could damage much of our technology in space–such as our satellites–and could also certainly cause headaches for those who manage our electrical grids.

But do we know how powerful solar events can be? History may hold the answer.

In September of 1859, a solar flare was so massive that there were newspaper reports of it across the globe, and many found the strange light it created baffling. Of course, now, there’s no speculation as to what happened then–eyewitness accounts and plenty of written evidence in this pre-internet era paint a clear picture of a massive coronal ejection. This event has been referenced many times as a benchmark–one that, should it happen now, would certainly give us serious pause.  Technologically, that is.

I happened upon a fantastic article about the 1859 flare on ARS Technica called: 1859’s “Great Auroral Storm”—the week the Sun touched the earth.

The following is an excerpt:

It hit quickly. Twelve hours after Carrington’s discovery and a continent away, “We were high up on the Rocky Mountains sleeping in the open air,” wrote a correspondent to the Rocky Mountain News. “A little after midnight we were awakened by the auroral light, so bright that one could easily read common print.” As the sky brightened further, some of the party began making breakfast on the mistaken assumption that dawn had arrived.

Across the United States and Europe, telegraph operators struggled to keep service going as the electromagnetic gusts enveloped the globe. In 1859, the US telegraph system was about 20 years old, and Cyrus Field had just built his transatlantic cable from Newfoundland to Ireland, which would not succeed in transmitting messages until after the American Civil War.

“Never in my experience of fifteen years in working telegraph lines have I witnessed anything like the extraordinary effect of the Aurora Borealis between Quebec and Farther Point last night,” wrote one telegraph manager to the Rochester Union & Advertiser on August 30:

The line was in most perfect order, and well skilled operators worked incessantly from 8 o’clock last evening till one this morning to get over in an intelligible form four hundred words of the report per steamer Indian for the Associated Press, and at the latter hour so completely were the wires under the influence of the Aurora Borealis that it was found utterly impossible to communicate between the telegraph stations, and the line had to be closed.

But if the following newspaper transcript of a telegraph operator exchange between Portland and Boston is to be believed, some plucky telegraphers improvised, letting the storm do the work that their disrupted batteries couldn’t:

Boston operator, (to Portland operator) – “Please cut off your battery entirely from the line for fifteen minutes.”

Portland operator: “Will do so. It is now disconnected.”

Boston: “Mine is disconnected, and we are working with the auroral current. How do you receive my writing?”

Portland: “Better than with our batteries on. Current comes and goes gradually.”

Boston: “My current is very strong at times, and we can work better without the batteries, as the Aurora seems to neutralize and augment our batteries alternately, making current too strong at times for our relay magnets.

Suppose we work without batteries while we are affected by this trouble.”

Portland: “Very well. Shall I go ahead with business?”

Boston: “Yes. Go ahead.”

Telegraphers around the US reported similar experiences. “The wire was then worked for about two hours without the usual batteries on the auroral current, working better than with the batteries connected,” said the Washington Daily National Intelligencer. “Who now will dispute the theory that the Aurora Borealis is caused by electricity?” asked the Washington Evening Star.

Read the full and fascinating article, 1859’s “Great Auroral Storm”—the week the Sun touched the earth on arstechnica.

Large Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) to hit earth January 24th

(Source: SpaceWeather.com)

CME‘s have a very negative effect on shortwave radio. This particular CME is the largest to hit earth in 7 years–certain high-flying airplanes may even be re-routed. On the positive note, the strong ensuing geo-magnet storms should create some beautiful aurorasin northern latitudes. More details:

(Source: Space Weather)

The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) and NASA’s STEREO-B spacecraft detected a CME rapidly emerging from the blast site: movie. Analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab say the leading edge of the CME will reach Earth on Jan. 24 at 14:18UT (+/- 7 hours). Their animated forecast track shows that Mars is in the line of fire, too; the CME will hit the Red Planet during the late hours of Jan. 25.
This is a relatively substantial and fast-moving (2200 km/s) CME. Spacecraft in geosynchronous, polar and other orbits passing through Earth’s ring current and auroral regions could be affected by the cloud’s arrival. In addition, strong geomagnetic storms are possible, so high-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras.