Solar Flare This Weekend Was a “Dud” – Opportunity to Review Your Emergency Plan

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You probably didn’t notice the solar flare this weekend, and let’s consider that a good thing…as in, no news is good news. I’ve been checking the news sources this morning and, so far, there’s been little mention of the flare and its associated coronal mass ejection (CME) since Friday (the flare was observed early Thursday). Increased aurorae activity, yes, but no widespread power outages or communications disruptions. Though it was noted to be the largest solar flare of the year, it was a minor one (M6 rating; see table below).

Last Thursday's solar flare originated from AR (Active Region)-1719

Last Thursday’s solar flare originated from AR (Active Region)-1719. Click for larger image.

Coronal mass ejections — comprised of highly-energized particles and magnetic wind — can disrupt electronics on Earth by impacting everything from radio communications to GPS signals, while creating radiation hazards for spacecraft and the humans within. A large enough CME directed at Earth has the potential to knock out electrical power for extended periods of time. And since CME’s travel outwardly from the sun at 1-1.5 million miles per hour, Earth-arrival can be noted in as little as 24 hours. This most recent CME was rated as moderate. No news is good news, indeed. (Read more about how coronal mass ejections are classified here.)

Experts disagree on exactly how long these cycles last and exactly when they will peak, but Solar Cycle 24 began in 2008 and is expected to peak about now. These sub-11 year cycles are marked by periods of increased solar activity during the cycle. Predictions for the current SC-24 are for a relatively quiet cycle and for it to be the most quiet in 100 years. Again, more good news.

Is your business continuity plan yet another source of good news? It is if it includes outliers like power and communications disruptions that might be brought about by solar flares and coronal mass ejections. As I mentioned in last week’s article for YourWeatherBlog, weather is responsible for 90% of Presidential-declared disasters, but that leaves 10% to things like earthquakes, disease and solar flares. Consider the 1989 solar flare that left six million people in the province of Quebec without power for nine hours.

Are more solar flares and coronal mass ejections in our future. Experts say yes, with certainty. How strong and when is a little more cloudy. Yet with the the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season’s official beginning just 46 days away and a potential bullet dodged just a couple of days ago, now is the perfect time to review your business continuity plan, as well as your emergency plan and emergency kit for home.

How solar flares are classified. Source: Wikipedia

How solar flares are classified. Typically, X-class flares are the types that are strong enough to cause notice on Earth. Source: Wikipedia

ImpactWeather’s YourWeatherBlog has written about solar activity before. You can visit a few of those links here, here and here. We’ve also written about emergency plans and emergency kits before — read them here and here.

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