‘Space weather’ could disrupt Halloween in the US

Written by By Jeff Mackey, CNN Staff Everyone on Earth should be able to fall asleep easily this Halloween, as a new solar storm warning is in effect. A “space weather” event, which on…

'Space weather' could disrupt Halloween in the US

Written by By Jeff Mackey, CNN Staff

Everyone on Earth should be able to fall asleep easily this Halloween, as a new solar storm warning is in effect.

A “space weather” event, which on its own is not dangerous, but when coupled with a strong coronal mass ejection and a burst of X-class solar flares has the potential to disrupt communications and GPS signals, according to scientists.

As if a scary coincidence, Halloween falls on Saturday, Oct. 27, this year.

Those who live within a 22-mile (35-kilometer) radius of Earth will be the most likely to feel the effect, according to a U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) alert issued Monday. The advisory does not identify the specific time or place where there is the highest threat, but there is a “potential impact” within five hours of the initial occurrence.

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Such an impact could cause power grid fluctuations, weak laser effects, GPS signals and other outer space-based infrastructure to suffer interference, according to the alert. It also warns that electro-magnetic radiation storms could hit the Earth’s ionosphere, resulting in “visibility degradation and power line and radio blackouts.”

The most severe weather is typically associated with solar flares or coronal mass ejections, but the latest detection, announced on Friday, could set off geomagnetic storms.

“Future space weather will likely have a strong magnetic field interaction associated with the high geomagnetic maximum,” SWPC spokesman Jonathan Cirtain told CNN.

“The space weather being observed at the moment is not seen on a regular basis,” Cirtain added. “Space weather is sometimes a surprise and at other times is fully expected. This is a peak in the space weather cycle, which is expected to begin a downward trend after an expected peak towards the end of this year.”

Solar flares and coronal mass ejections are products of the sun’s explosive activity, and scientists do not expect to see them resume their torrid rate of activity until after 2018.

The Earth is currently in the early part of its 11-year solar cycle of activity, which is supposed to peak later this year.

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