Normally, we’re accustomed to Severe Thunderstorm or Blizzard Warnings, etc. when it comes to weather forecasts and the potential impact on travel. Now, there seems to be another type of warning that we’ll have to deal with: A Geomagnetic Storm Watch.
NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has issued just such a watch for this weekend after observing two large solar flares emit from the Sun that were pointed directly at the 3rd rock from the Sun (that being Earth). Specifically, a G2 Geomagentic Storm Watch is in effect for Friday, while a G3 watch is in place for Saturday. The G3 is the more severe of the 2 types.
Based on what I read today, these types of strong solar flares are not rare, but the problem is that this specific solar flare is aimed directly at the earth which apparently is a fairly uncommon occurrence at these strengths.
According to the experts, there is widespread potential (albeit it low) for power outages as well as interference with satellite communications around the world. This would include navigation aids such as GPS and other communication links that airliners rely on when in flight. Apparently, high frequency radio transmissions to and from aircraft can be seriously impacted as soon as tonight.
These same experts also suggest that there shouldn’t be major impact from these flares, but they hedged themselves by saying that since they know so little about them, it’s hard to predict just how much their impact would be.
So, should you be sitting in a terminal this weekend wondering why your flight is delayed, or why the gate agent is saying there is a weather delay even though skies are clear and blue, you may very well be delayed thanks to something that happened on the Sun yesterday!