Washington: A recent study has pointed out that large solar storms are capable of ‘dodging’ the detection systems on Earth.
According to observations from the Tihany Magnetic Observatory in Hungary, the indices used by scientists to assess the Sun’s geomagnetic perturbations to the Earth are unable to detect some of these events, which could put both power supply and communication networks at risk.
The Tihany Magnetic Observatory registered a solar storm similar to the largest one ever recorded while other observatories were completely unaware of the event.
In 1859 the largest and most powerful solar storm ever recorded, also known as the Carrington Event or the Carrington Flare in honour of the English Astronomer Richard Carrington who observed it, was detected at the Colaba Observatory in India. This solar storm allowed for the observation of auroras at latitudes as low as Madrid and even the Caribbean Sea. However, the storm was also the cause of power outages and fires at telegraph system facilities all over Europe and North America.
Ever since, geomagnetic storms caused by the Sun pose a serious threat to a society that is increasingly dependent on technology, in addition to directly posing serious danger to power and communication networks. In order to avoid this risk scientists have developed several indices that can help to both analyse and predict this phenomenon.
Two of the most widely used indices for measuring geomagnetic storms are the Dst (Disturbance storm time) and a more precise version called SYM-H -. One of the large solar storms was the Halloween Solar Storm that took place between October and November of 2003.
Nevertheless, neither Dst nor SYM-H was able to detect the magnetic perturbation that affected the Earth precisely at that time, specifically on 29 October 2003. This solar event was extraordinarily similar to the Carrington Flare of 1859. The Halloween Solar Storm affected power plants both in Sweden and South Africa where several transformers were burnt.
The event was recorded at the Tihany Magnetic Observatory in Hungary. A team of researchers from the University of Alcala has now analysed the official indices’ failure to detect that event, and is now reporting on the potential consequences.
The study appears in Journal of Space Weather and Space Climate.