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Solar Storm Threatens Operations Across Multiple Industries. Round 2 on Sunday?

GPS and other service interruptions remind enterprise IT that all storms can mean trouble for business operations.

More disruption across industries is expected as the solar storm could hit a second peak this Sunday night, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center.

This week, NOAA officials said there were reports of “power grid irregularities and degradation to high-frequency communications and GPS” due to the recent storm.

The impact of geomagnetic solar storms

Geomagnetic storms “can impact infrastructure in near-Earth orbit and on Earth’s surface, potentially disrupting communications, the electric power grid, navigation, radio, and satellite operations,” according to the NOAA.

Thursday morning, NOAA reported that “moderate storm levels had been reached” and issued a Geomagnetic Storm Alert. A moderate storm is a moderately intense disturbance in the Earth’s geomagnetic field.

As far as possible technology effects, the agency said there is “a slight risk for some controllable power fluctuations in elements of the power grid.” The fallout is generally negligible impacts for short duration events to spacecraft operations.

The NOAA forecasted the storm and proactively contacted government responders such as FEMA, state EMAs, the national grid, and NASA, as well as members of private industry such as those in the satellite industry with low-Earth orbiting satellites (LEO satellites). “There were no reports of large problems, but these groups were very busy in advance of the storm’s arrival and are still engaged as it continues,” explained Shawn Dahl, who is a space weather forecaster at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) in Boulder, CO.

Your crucial weather reports

Created in 1970 during the Nixon administration, the NOAA said it notified the operators of these systems so they can take protective action. Geomagnetic storms can also trigger spectacular displays of aurora on Earth.

SpaceX warned of “degraded service” with its Starlink internet service, delivered by a growing fleet of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites to businesses and residences in much of the world.

Reliance on GPS-supported capabilities has burgeoned. Industries that use it widely include agriculture, aviation, transportation, trucking, logistics, military and maritime. It has enabled crucial advancements in the way they do business.

Farmers learned the hard way earlier this week that strong solar storms can impact life in space and here on Earth. While surprised residents looked to the skies to watch space’s light show, farmers trying to take advantage of peak planting season were learning GPS and communications satellites, and even the power grid can be interrupted.

Farming programs that rely on GPS to enable agriculture machinery to precisely distribute seeds are essential to making their efforts more efficient, boosting farmland crop yields. “Friday was an awful day for farmers,” remarked Dahl, in reference to the May 9th event.

Advice, guidance, and solar storm alerts available

Dahl added that businesses – and other parties – can benefit from accessing space weather info and signing up for free resources to know when strong solar storms occur and when they might potentially impact operations.

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