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Solar storm could cause weekend communication disruptions: NOAA

A “severe” solar storm could cause weekend communication disruptions, according to the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center, which issued the warning following a series of solar flares and explosions of magnetic and plasma fields. 

The development has raised the possibility of Northern Lights being seen across the country. NOAA issued a “very rare” G4 storm watch, the first major one since 2005. 

“A large sunspot cluster has produced several moderate to strong solar flares since Wednesday,” NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) said in a statement on Thursday. 

Coronal mass ejections (CME) are an eruption of solar material, according to NOAA. When they get to Earth, geomagnetic storms can take place. CMEs could get to Earth late Friday or early Saturday. 

NOAA said the aurora might be visible as south as Alabama and to northern California. 

Geomagnetic storms are measured on a 5-level scale, with G1 considered the lowest and G5 being the most extreme. 

“Geomagnetic storms can impact infrastructure in near-Earth orbit and on Earth’s surface, potentially disrupting communications, the electric power grid, navigation, radio and satellite operations,” NOAA said in a Thursday statement. 

“SWPC has notified the operators of these systems so they can take protective action. Geomagnetic storms can also trigger spectacular displays of aurora on Earth.” 

NOAA stated only three “severe” geomagnetic storms occurred since the current solar cycle kicked off in late 2019. The last G4 storm was on March 23.

The last extreme, G5, storm, occurred in 2003, causing damages to power transformers in South America and power outages in Sweden, according to NOAA.

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