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Wednesday, March 14

The Storms

Photo: AP/Alessandra Tarantino

Extraordinary weather, from the 'Snowmageddon' that battered the European Continent and U.K. countries, to a series of 'bomb cyclones' along the U.S. Atlantic coast, preceded the solar flare. (See reports after the Daily Mail article.) Have no idea whether there's a connection between the storms on earth and the sun storm. From the Daily Mail, March 13; article by Harry Pettit (see the website for video and pix):

Massive solar storm that will slam Earth TOMORROW [March 14] could knock out power supplies, damage satellites and trigger stunning auroras
A huge solar storm is heading for Earth, and it's likely to hit tomorrow.

The storm could knock out satellites, disrupt power supplies and spark stunning displays of the Northern Lights.

It was created last week by an enormous explosion in the sun's atmosphere known as a solar flare, and charged particles from that flare are now on their way to our planet.

The arrival of the solar storm coincides with the formation of 'equinox cracks' in Earth's magnetic field, which some scientists believe form around the equinoxes on March 20 and September 23 each year.

These cracks weaken our planet's natural protection against charged particles and could leave commercial flights and GPS systems exposed to the incoming storm.

The cracks also mean stargazers are more likely to catch glimpses of the Northern lights this week.

This may include parts of Scotland and northern England, as well as the 'northern tier' of the US including parts of Michigan and Maine. 

The charged, magnetic particles from the solar storm can interfere with machinery in Earth's orbit as well as at the planet's surface, such as GPS systems and radio signals. 

They can also threaten airlines by disturbing Earth's magnetic field.

Very large flares can even create currents within electricity grids and knock out energy supplies.

'A minor geomagnetic storm watch is now in effect for the 14 and 15 March, 2018. Aurora may be visible at high latitudes,' the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) wrote in a statement.

The particles, which came from the sun after solar flares took place on March 6 and 7, could cause 'weak power grid fluctuations' and a 'minor impact on satellite operations,' according to the NOAA.

Nasa said the first of the two flares - classified in the potent X class and facing directly at the Earth - was the biggest this year.

It was one of the largest of this cycle known as the solar minimum, which began in early 2007.

Geomagnetic storms are ranked on a severity scale, with G at the bottom, R in the middle and S at the top.

[Inset: What Are Solar Storms and Why Are They Dangerous?]

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that the forecast suggests the solar storm will be a G-1 or 'minor' storm.

This could become a G-2 'moderate storm' depending on how the charged particles hit Earth.

The event coincides with the formation of 'equinox cracks' - theorised by some scientists to form semi-annually during the equinox.

On March 20 and September 23 each year, the Earth and sun line up so that day and night are of roughly equal length.

But the equinoxes also cause cracks to open up in Earth's magnetic field which stay open for hours.


I want to focus on explanations about why the unusual storms happened so I omitted several interesting paragraphs from the following report concerning how the storms affected various countries. 

From The New York Times, March 1:
Heaviest Snow in Decades Batters U.K., Ireland and the Continent


Since last Friday, Europe has been locked in a Siberian weather patternthat has pummeled the Continent with snow, freezing rain and brutal wind chills, paralyzing cities unaccustomed to more than a thin wet film of snow and killing dozens of people, mainly older and homeless people.

The weather system that is being called the “Beast From the East” has hit Britain especially hard, with some areas buried in up to three feet of snow and pushing temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 10 Celsius).[...]

Europe’s weather usually approaches from the Atlantic, to the west, keeping conditions mostly temperate, but that pattern has temporarily reversed, bringing a frigid system from Asia that meteorologists named “the Beast From the East.” Rome had its first snowfall in six years this week.

The cold weather in Britain and northwestern Europe is to some extent a mirror image of the “sudden stratospheric warming” in the arctic, experts say, referring to a disturbance in the polar jet stream that has alarmed scientists and forced some to reconsider even the most pessimistic forecasts for climate change.

As warm air has surged into the Arctic, experts say, a return flow into Europe dropped average February temperatures there to among the coldest ever.

“These changes in the upper areas of the atmosphere over the North Pole then lead to the jet stream being pushed southwards, which is what normally drives weather patterns in the U.K. and northwestern Europe,” said Chloe Moore, a meteorologist for the Royal Meteorological Society in Reading, southern England.

“When we have this setup in winter, the winds then come from the east, and this brings a very cold air mass from Scandinavia and Northern Russia,” she added.



Bomb Cyclones
The last of these unusual Nor'easters struck the U.S. around March 13 but going back to March 1: from a report filed by Doyle Rice for USA Today:

Nor'easter a 'life and death' situation with high winds for almost all of East Coast


The storm is expected to undergo explosive development known as bombogenesis, which is a rapid drop in atmospheric pressure of 24 millibars or more in a period of 24 hours or less, the Weather Channel said.

"This 'bomb cyclone' wind field is larger than most Category 1 hurricanes, with winds to match," Meteorologist Ryan Maue of weather.us said.

The storm will be the most powerful to hit the East since January's bomb cyclone, AccuWeather said.

All along the East Coast, authorities told residents of coastal communities to be prepared to evacuate if necessary in advance of Friday morning’s high tide, the Associated Press said.

Up to 2 feet of heavy, wet snow could bury portions of New York and Pennsylvania. Strong winds are likely Friday afternoon and evening, and whiteout conditions are possible, the weather service said. Blizzard conditions are possible in portions of eastern Pennsylvania.




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