Forecasters at the NOAA
Space Environment Center
in Boulder, Colo., said that a powerful geomagnetic
storm emitted from the sun sped though space at 5 million mph and reached
Earth Wednesday 1:13 a.m. EST. NOAA space weather forecaster Larry Combs
said, “It took the geomagnetic storm just 19 hours to reach Earth
after it occurred on the sun. That’s one of the fastest traveling
solar storms this cycle” The storm came in as a G-5 or extreme
geomagnetic storm on the NOAA
space weather scales
, which run 1 to 5. (Click here to view
larger image from the SOHO spacecraft of the intense solar activity on
the sun taken Oct. 28, 2003, at 5:24 p.m. EDT. Click
to view high resolution version, which is a large file. Click
to view latest images. Please credit “SOHO”)

The solar
flare caused an S-4 radiation event, which is the fourth largest in history
since NOAA began keeping records in 1976. It’s also the second largest
radiation event during this cycle of the sun.

Combs said,
“The geomagnetic storm is expected affect the Earth for the next
12 to 24 hours, but NOAA is forecasting that further major eruptions in
these active regions of the sun will continue for the next week”

Reports received
by NOAA indicate that power grids in the northern United States and Canada
are feeling the effects of the extreme geomagnetic storm. Utilities are
experiencing power surges and are closely monitoring their systems. NOAA
received a report that the Aurora Borealis, or northern lights, were visible
as far south as El Paso, Texas.

NOAA Space Environment Center is home to the nation’s early warning
system for solar activities that directly affect people and equipment”,
explained retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad
, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere
and NOAA administrator. “Big solar storms like the current one can
create brilliant northern lights but can also threaten with increased
exposure to X-rays, damage and disrupt communications, energy delivery
systems and aviation operations. SEC’s 24 hour-a-day, 7 day-a-week
operations are critical to protecting space and ground-based assets”

Through the
NOAA Space Environment Center, NOAA and the U.S. Air Force jointly operate
the space weather operations center that continuously monitors, analyzes
and forecasts the environment between the sun and Earth. In addition to
the data gathered from NOAA and NASA satellites, the center receives real-time
solar and geophysical information from ground based-observatories around
the world. The NOAA space weather forecasters use the data to predict
solar and geomagnetic activity and issue worldwide alerts of extreme events.

Space Environment Center plays a leadership role in the space weather
community and helps foster a space weather services industry.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through
the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and
providing environmental stewardship of the nationĂ­s coastal and marine
resources. NOAA is part of the U.S.
Department of Commerce