VIDEO: Solar storm, radiation lashing earth's atmosphere
After a lengthy quiet period, activity on the surface of the sun is picking up again and it's sending radiation toward Earth. Though there's no risk on the ground, certain satellites and high-flying airplanes could be at risk to communications breakdowns.
The entire world is being lashed by the worst storm in more than six years.
It's not the sort of storm that brings heavy rains or strong winds. It's a solar storm, having sent a stream of radiation particles at earth beginning Monday and continuing. According to the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center, the current storm is an S3, out of a possible S5. It's the strongest space radiation storm since 2005.
"It's a minor to moderate storm," Yihua Zheng, a lead researcher at the Space Weather Center, told SPACE.com. "Probably in the next 10 hours or so, people at high latitudes can see auroras. This could maybe cause communication errors at the polar caps, but the magnetic activities are probably not too strong."
Though there's no risk to people and equipment on the ground, according to Agence France Press, at least some airlines, including Delta and United in the United States, have had to reroute their planes flying the polar route in order to avoid communications problems.
Delta said that it was adding about 15 minutes to roughly a half-dozen of their long-distance, trans-pacific flights.
The sun is in the midst of a ramp-up in activity in its 11-year cycle, the Space Weather Prediction Center said. In 2013 it will be at its maximum activity level for solar flares and solar radiation.