Problems with the navigator, headaches and sun flares. What to expect from magnetic storms?

On August 17, according to Time-in.ru, an increase in geomagnetic activity or “magnetic storms” is expected in the Krasnoyarsk Territory. Almost everyone has heard about this concept, but few people know the essence of this phenomenon and what is its danger. Roman Rudenko, Candidate of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Associate Professor at the Department of General Physics of the Siberian Federal University, helped to understand the nature of magnetic storms and answered our correspondent’s questions.

On the nature of magnetic storms

Geomagnetic storms are a natural phenomenon that occurs when disturbed streams of charged particles coming from the Sun enter the near-Earth space. In the scientific world, this flow is called the “solar wind”.

The speed of the solar wind varies depending on the rotation of the star and the flames that arise on it – from 300 to 800 kilometers per second. It is this difference in the speed of flows of ionized particles as they collide with the Earth’s magnetic field that creates an effect known as “magnetic storms”.


Photographs of the Sun taken at different wavelengths by the NOAA GOES-18 satellite. Thus, researchers get a more detailed picture of the star’s temperature and condition. (photo: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

“Our sun continuously emits a huge amount of charged particles into outer space, which, in interaction with the atmosphere of the planets, as a result of ionization, cause it to glow and gradually disappear into space. The presence of a magnetic field near the planet is a kind of shield which does not allow the Sun to “blow away” its atmosphere. It is that glow in the atmosphere as a result of the bombardment of charged particles that we are used to calling the aurora borealis. During solar coronal mass ejections, the number of charged particles flying towards the planet increases many times over. And when this ejection from a solar flare reaches the Earth, as a result of interaction with the magnetic field of our planet, its lines of force begin to shift. There is the very phenomenon that we call a magnetic storm. The stronger the coronal mass ejection in the direction of the Earth, the stronger it becomes magnetic storm to be. explains Roman Yurievich.

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Based on the foregoing, we can conclude that magnetic storms are a consequence of the interaction between the planet’s magnetosphere and an intense flow of charged particles from solar emissions.

“We have not yet learned how to predict eruptions in advance. This is a chaotic process. Their number is related to the cycles of solar activity. Therefore, it is possible to give an accurate forecast of the strength of a magnetic storm only after a lightning strike occurs on the sun. It usually takes 1-2 days for the particle stream from the ejection to reach our planet and cause a magnetic storm. These processes are observed by many scientific organizations that study the sun and monitor its activity using special solar telescopes.”

Classification of magnetic storms



Magnetic storms, like earthquakes, have a point scale and classification.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) distinguishes 5 levels of geomagnetic activity: from G1 to G5.

● G1 – minor fluctuations that have little effect on the satellites. Even at this level, in the extreme hemispheres of the planet, the “northern lights” are observed.
● G2 – moderate geomagnetic activity. Possibility of occurrence of voltage signals in power systems at high latitudes, high frequency radio waves can be attenuated at this level.
● G3 – strong activity. At level G3 there are interruptions in the operation of navigation systems and in some power systems voltage adjustments are made by employees.
● G4 – hard level. There are problems with voltage control of power systems, navigation works intermittently, low-frequency radio waves are disturbed.
● G5 – extreme level of geomagnetic activity. At this level, complete failures of power supply systems, a significant deterioration of satellite navigation and a complete attenuation of radio waves in some parts of the planet are possible.

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Photo: freepik.com

The Gismeteo portal breaks down geomagnetic activity as follows:

0-4 points – minor disturbances
5 points – weak storm
6 points – moderate storm
7 points – strong storm
8 points – storm
9 points – extreme storm

Note that on August 17, a 5-point geomagnetic situation is predicted in Krasnoyarsk, which means weak geomagnetic disturbances.

Impact of magnetic storms on humans

Magnetic storms are especially dangerous for people with heart disease who suffer from arterial hypertension. Scientists believe that during this phenomenon, a person’s capillary blood flow slows down, causing oxygen starvation in tissues. Poor health – headaches, insomnia are associated with this. Most heart attacks, strokes and hypertensive exacerbations also occur during magnetic storms.

But despite the level of physical health, magnetic storms indirectly affect more than 50% of the world’s population. For nearly a century, scientists have observed various patterns in human behavior during this natural phenomenon.

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Photo: freepik.com

In the 1950s, German researchers Reinhold Reiter and Karl Werner analyzed at least 100,000 car accidents and concluded that most accidents occurred during periods of solar activity. In addition, a greater number of incidents occurred on the second day after the solar flare, which, according to the time frame, falls on the peak of the magnetic storm, since solar energy fluxes reach the Earth for about two days.

In support of this, Vladimir Desyatov, a member of the Methodological Council of the Forensic Investigation of the City of Tomsk, revealed a pattern that it is on the second day after a solar flare that the largest number of suicides are committed, exceeding this statistic on days with calm sun by 4 times .

It should be noted that the effect of magnetic storms on a person in terms of his behavioral and mental characteristics during this natural phenomenon causes controversy in the scientific community. Due to the fact that “overloads” for the human brain during magnetic storms are incomparable to those that a person experiences in everyday life, for example, when flying on an airplane.

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