Lifestyle & Belief

Solar storm: Delta, United Airlines divert flights over Arctic


The first strong solar flare in four years occurred on Feb. 14, 2011, as captured here by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft. This solar flare led to warnings that a geo-magnetic storm could disrupt communications and electrical supplies once it reaches the earth's magnetic field. Another solar storm is hitting the Earth on Jan. 24, 2011.


NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory

A solar storm has caused US airlines to divert flights over the Arctic to prevent communications losses during the biggest solar radiation storm in more than six years.

The solar storm followed a solar flare, or coronal mass ejection (CME), on Sunday, that sent energized particles towards Earth at about 5 million miles an hour. The resulting geomagnetic storm hit our planet on Tuesday and will continue throughout Wednesday, the BBC said.

Delta Air Lines and United Airlines diverted some flights over polar routes, with planes being flown further south than the usual course.

Delta diverted "a handful" of flights from Detroit and Asia, Reuters reported. The route changes added about 15 minutes to travel times. 

United Airlines diverted a flight on Monday because of the storm, Reuters said.

More from GlobalPost: Solar storm hits Earth after huge solar flare (VIDEO)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center issued a watch on Sunday for "a geomagnetic storm associated with a bright flare on the sun."

The solar storm could have "possible impacts to navigation, the power grid and satellites," NOAA said in a press release.

The storm is also expected to cause unusually intense Northern Lights, with the aurora borealis visible at lower latitudes.

The Sun is in an increasingly active period of its normal 11-year cycle, also known as a "solar maximum," VOA reported. Sun activity is expected to peak next year.

More from GlobalPost: What is a solar flare and how will it affect Earth? (PHOTOS)