The sun could send a storm to Earth in the coming days. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), our fiery star spewed out a series of eruptions on Sunday that are now heading toward our planet and could trigger a strong geomagnetic storm.
One of those eruptions, called a coronal mass ejection or CME, is expected to collide and consume another, creating a so-called cannibal CME event. According to The Weather Channel, these events can trigger strong geomagnetic storms — and in this case, it’s headed our way.
NOAA expects the CMEs to strike on Thursday, but before they do, the agency said Earth will also be shelled on Wednesday with relatively fast solar winds, known as a recurrent coronal hole high-speed flow. The solar winds alone could set off a minor geomagnetic storm on Wednesday, but those conditions are expected to escalate to strong conditions known as G3 once the solar eruptions set in.
NOAA said at least four of the CMEs have the potential to directly affect the Earth.
Geomagnetic storms are ranked on a scale from G1 to G5, with G5 being the most extreme. In such a case, there would be widespread voltage regulation problems and some power grids could experience “complete collapse or blackouts,” according to NOAA.
A G3 storm, as expected, may require some power supply systems to be corrected, and it may also cause some false alarms on power protection devices.
Such a storm can also create a nice side effect – visible northern lights outside their usual realm.
NOAA said the Northern Lights, also known as the aurora borealis, can be seen as far south as Illinois and Oregon when the G3 strikes. A short-term forecast for the lights can be found here.