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"NOAA Warning": Strong solar storm event will cause auroras and disruptions today

On Thursday afternoon, an extraordinary solar event unfolded as the sun unleashed its most powerful solar flare in over six years, resulting in widespread radio blackouts, especially across South America. This significant flare, classified as an X2.8, where ‘X’ indicates the highest intensity category and the numeral specifies its strength, marked a notable moment in space weather.

The Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC), a division of NOAA, described this occurrence as an “amazing event” and potentially “one of the largest solar radio events ever recorded.” This solar activity has already caused notable disruptions, including interference with aircraft radio communications, as reported by the SWPC. The effects of this solar flare were so extensive that they were “felt from one end of the nation to the other.”

In addition to the flare, the SWPC is closely watching a potential Earth-directed coronal mass ejection (CME) associated with this event. CMEs, as explained by NASA, are massive clouds of electrified, magnetic gas ejected from the sun at speeds between 12 to 1,250 miles per second. These ejections can lead to geomagnetic storms on Earth, which are responsible for creating auroras.

*** Update — December 17, 2023, 09:20 EST ***

WARNING: Geomagnetic K-Index of 6 expected
Valid From: December 17, 2023
Warning Condition: Onset
NOAA Scale: G2 – Moderate

Potential Impacts: Area of impact primarily poleward of 55 degrees Geomagnetic Latitude.

Induced Currents – Power grid fluctuations can occur. High-latitude power systems may experience voltage alarms.

Spacecraft – Satellite orientation irregularities may occur; increased drag on low Earth-orbit satellites is possible.

Radio – HF (high frequency) radio propagation can fade at higher latitudes.

Aurora – Aurora may be seen much as low as New York to Wisconsin to Washington state, with potential to reach lower southern states as well.

*** Update — December 16, 2023, 07:35 EST ***

According to the SWPC, solar activity is likely to reach moderate (R1-R2/Minor-Moderate) levels, with a chance for X-class flares (R3/Strong), on December 16 and 17. This is primarily due to the flare potential of Region 3514. Periods of active conditions are expected through December 18 due to residual CME effects and the onset of CH HSS influences.

Expectations suggest mild impacts from a coronal mass ejection (CME) until around midday on December 16th. Later on the same day, the convergence of multiple CMEs is anticipated to intensify solar wind conditions. Modeling predicts that solar wind speeds could reach approximately 650-700 kilometers per second during the CME’s transit. A gradual return to typical solar conditions is forecasted for December 18th.

*** Strong X-class solar flare — Update 12:15 EST ***

The NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center has issued a geomagnetic storm warning on the heels of a massive solar event this morning. Region 3514, located over the far northwest area of the Sun, emitted an X2.8 flare (R3). This likely ranks as one of the largest solar radio events ever recorded.

On Dec 14 at 1702 UTC, AR 3514 produced an X2.8 flare, causing R3 (Strong) radio blackouts on portions of the sunlit side of the Earth. These blackouts may temporarily degrade or completely lose high frequency radio signals.

This flare stands as the largest of this solar cycle and the biggest since the X8.2 flare observed at GOES-15 on Sep 10, 2017. SWPC forecasters will closely monitor this sunspot region due to its potential for producing additional M-class and greater flares.

Multiple National Weather Service Center Weather Service Units (CWSU) co-located at FAA facilities reported radio communication interference with aircraft. The impacts extended from one end of the nation to the other.

Additionally, the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) is analyzing a potential Earth-directed Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) associated with this flare.

Please continue to monitor our webpage for the latest information and updates.


In a significant celestial event, the Sun has erupted with its most potent solar flare in six years. This massive Class X flare, the largest category of solar flares possible, has raised concerns among scientists about potential geomagnetic storms and extensive power outages on Earth.

The Class X solar flare

The flare, categorized as Class X, represents the highest intensity in the solar flare classification system. Solar flares are ranked from A to X, with X being the most powerful. The classes are further divided by numbers, indicating their relative strength. An X2 flare, for instance, is twice as potent as an X1.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory detected significant activity in the Sun’s northern hemisphere at 17:00 GMT yesterday. This observation led to the identification of a Class X2.8 solar flare, marking it as the most intense since the colossal X8.2 flare in September 2017. The flare originated from a sunspot labeled AR 3514, which, in a testament to its massive scale, is larger than Earth itself.

Solar flares occur when the Sun’s powerful magnetic fields, twisted and entangled by currents of super-heated gas, suddenly release the energy stored in these fields. This process is common in sunspots, cooler regions on the Sun’s surface where magnetic fields are intensely concentrated. The sudden release results in the heating of vast amounts of material to millions of degrees, leading to the emission of a burst of energy.

Impact of solar flare events on Earth

The immediate effect of this solar flare has been temporary radio blackouts across South America, resulting in a partial or complete loss of radio signals for approximately two hours. This impact illustrates the flare’s potential to disrupt radio communications on Earth.

Scientists warn that the arrival of this solar flare’s energy could spark geomagnetic storms and lead to substantial power outages. Geomagnetic storms, caused by interactions between solar emissions and the Earth’s magnetic field, can have far-reaching effects on power grids, satellite operations, and various forms of communication.

In summary, the occurrence of this Class X2.8 solar flare serves as a reminder of our Sun’s immense power and the potential impact of solar activity on our technologically dependent society. As scientists continue to monitor the Sun’s activity, this event underscores the importance of preparedness for space weather events and the need for ongoing research in solar physics.

More about X-class solar flares

Solar flares are powerful bursts of energy emanating from the sun, caused by the sudden release of magnetic energy stored in the solar atmosphere. These events, part of the sun’s natural solar cycle, are classified based on their strength. The most intense category, known as X-class solar flares, are the focus of this report.

Understanding X-class solar flares

X-class flares are the most powerful of solar flares. They are characterized by their extreme brightness, often outshining the sun’s regular luminosity in certain wavelengths. These flares can release as much energy as a billion hydrogen bombs.

The primary cause of X-class flares is the complex interaction of the sun’s magnetic field lines. These lines can become twisted and entangled, and when they suddenly realign, they release immense amounts of energy.

X-class flares are detected using space-based telescopes equipped with special instruments, like the Solar Dynamics Observatory. They are measured on a scale, with each unit representing a tenfold increase in energy output. For example, an X2 flare is twice as powerful as an X1 flare.

Impacts of X-class solar flares

Despite their intensity, X-class flares do not directly harm humans, as Earth’s atmosphere protects us. However, they can have significant effects on satellite operations, radio communications, and power grids.

These flares often lead to geomagnetic storms, which can disturb the Earth’s magnetosphere. This can result in beautiful auroras but also disrupt navigational systems and even cause power outages.

In summary, X-class solar flares, like the one that struck Earth on December 14, represent some of the most powerful phenomena in our solar system. Understanding them is crucial for mitigating their potential impacts on modern technology and for gaining insight into the broader workings of the sun. Ongoing research and observation continue to shed light on these fascinating and formidable solar events.

Please continue to monitor our webpage for the latest information and updates.


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