This blog provides commentary on interesting geological events occurring around the world in the context of my own work. This work is, broadly, geological fluid dynamics. The events that I highlight here are those that resonate with my professional life and ideas, and my goal is to interpret them in the context of ideas I've developed in my research. The blog does not represent any particular research agenda. It is written on a personal basis and does not seek to represent the University of Illinois, where I am a professor of geology and physics. Enjoy Geology in Motion! I would be glad to be alerted to geologic events of interest to post here! I hope that this blog can provide current event materials that will make geology come alive.

Banner image is by Ludie Cochrane..

Susan Kieffer can be contacted at s1kieffer at gmail.com

Friday, July 14, 2017

Another solar flare and coronal mass ejection, possible G2 event

Regions affected by blackouts from the July 14 solar flare
Update on July 15: Spaceweather.comsays that this will be a G2-class storm with possible intensification to a G3-class. G2=high-latitude power systems may experience voltage alarms, long-duration storms may cause transformer damage. G3 false alamrs triggered on some protection devices. Surface charging on satellite components, drag increase on low-Earth-orbit satellites. Radio navigation problems may occur. Aurora has been seen as low as Illinois and Oregon.

We are supposedly heading toward a sunspot minimum in 2019 or 2020, and this current solar cycle is the weakest cycle in more than a century. However, this morning there was an M2 solar flare and coronal mass ejection (CME) that may lead to a geomagnetic storm on July 16, 17. An M2 flare is "medium" sized (M) and of intensity 2 out of 9 possible levels. Peak fluxes for M flares range from E-05 to E-04 Watts per square meter at wavelengths between 1 and 8 Angstroms. This event happened in a sunspot AR2665 that had been quiet since it rotated onto the earth-facing part of the sun about July 7. It is the largest sunspot this year, more than 120,000 km across, about the same size as the planet jupiter. It had an "unstable beta-gamma magnetic field that indicated it contained energy for an M level explosion ( https://roslistonastronomy.uk/sunspot-ar-2665). According to spaceweather.com, the eruption lasted more than two hours and produced a "sustained fusilade of X-rays and energetic protons. Shortwave radio blackouts were observed over Asia and around the Arctic Circle, shown on the image above.

There is a video of the CME here:


The expanding cloud from the CME is expected to reach earth on July 16th and may spark geomagnetic storms and high-latitude auroras. Pray for clear weather in Seattle!