Fwd = Massive Sunspot May Lead to Geomagnetic Storms
- Forwarded by: fwestra@...
Originally from: "Heidi L Koehler" <hkoehler@...>
Original Subject: Massive Sunspot May Lead to Geomagnetic Storms
Original Date: Fri, 30 Mar 2001 11:13:12 -0700
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U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey
Release: March 29, 2001
Don Herzog 303-273-8487 herzog@...
Heidi Koehler Koontz 303-236-5446 hkoehler@...
Massive Sunspot May Lead to Geomagnetic Storms
The Sun has developed the largest sunspot seen in 10 years according to
images from SOHO, a satellite that monitors the Sun. The size of this
enormous spot is equivalent to the total surface area of 13 Earths. The
sunspot region has already produced a coronal mass ejection and a powerful
solar flare, and these are likely to lead to geomagnetic storms.
The worldwide network of Magnetic Observatories operated by the U.S.
Geological Survey (USGS) is monitoring the geomagnetic field that is
expected to become quite disturbed as result of this solar activity. While
geomagnetic storms give rise to the beautiful Northern lights, they can
also pose a serious threat for commercial and military satellite operators,
power companies, astronauts, and they can even shorten the life of oil
pipelines in Alaska by increasing pipeline corrosion.
Geomagnetic storms occur when plasma, a hot ionized gas of charged
particles produced by eruptions on the Sun, impacts the Earth's magnetic
field causing it to fluctuate wildly. These fluctuations cause currents to
flow in conductors on the ground and in space. Solar eruptions can produce
billions of tons of plasma traveling at speeds in excess of a million miles
an hour. The first eruption should hit the Earth's magnetic field some time
on Friday, March 30, and the second on Saturday. The geomagnetic field will
likely become very active and there is a strong chance of Aurora sightings
The USGS provides valuable geomagnetic data to a wide variety of users and
organizations that are affected by geomagnetic storms. The agency operates
a network of 14 magnetic observatories that continuously monitor the
Earth's magnetic field. The data are collected in near-real time via
satellite to a downlink center located in Golden, Colo., and provided to
numerous customers including NOAA's Space Environment Center and the U.S.
Air Force Space Command Center. Plots of the data from these observatories
can be seen on-line at: http://geomag.usgs.gov/frames/plots.htm
The SOHO satellite is operated jointly by the European Space Agency and
As the nation's largest water, earth and biological science, and civilian
mapping agency, the USGS works in cooperation with more than 2000
organizations across the country to provide reliable, impartial, scientific
information to resource managers, planners, and other customers. This
information is gathered in every state by USGS scientists to minimize the
loss of life and property from natural disasters, to contribute to the
conservation and the sound economic and physical development of the
nation's natural resources, and to enhance the quality of life by
monitoring water, biological, energy, and mineral resources.
### USGS ###
This press release and in-depth information about USGS programs may be
found on the USGS home page: http://www.usgs.gov
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