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Jan. 19, 2005 — For the past five days, forecasters at the NOAA Space Environment Center (SEC) in Boulder , Colo. , have observed all types of space weather: radio blackouts, solar radiation storms, and geomagnetic storms. Currently, space weather forecasters are observing a moderate (G-2) geomagnetic storm and a minor (S-1) solar radiation storm, and earlier today an X-class flare produced a strong (R-3) radio blackout.

(click image for full size picture)
2005/01/21 GOES - 12 NOAA/SEC Boulder Co.

According to NOAA space weather forecaster, Bill Murtagh, "NOAA sunspot Region 720 emerged rapidly from a small single sunspot on 12 January to become a very large and complex sunspot cluster on 14 January. Several major flares have occurred since 15 January. A strong (S-3) radiation storm and several periods of strong (G-3) geomagnetic storming occurred due to these solar eruptions," Murtagh notes, "This activity is occurring almost five years past the solar maximum (April 2000). This activity is significant; however, it is considerably less intense than the activity observed during the "Halloween Storms" of 2003. Fewer sunspots are observed during this stage of the solar cycle, but sporadic large clusters are expected in the waning stages of the cycle. In fact, intense late cycle activity was also observed in the late stages of Cycle 17 and Cycle 20."

NOAA notifies customers for a wide range of space environment conditions. Due to the assortment of space weather events over the past week, all sectors vulnerable to hazardous space weather may feel the effects of the recent activity. These include airline and spacecraft operations, electric power systems, navigation, satellites, and communications systems. NOAA received reports of impacts on various communications systems.

Forecasters indicate strong (R-3) solar flares are possible for the next three to four days. Region 720 will rotate to the far side of the Sun on 22 January, and significant flare activity is expected to end. The radiation storm in progress now is declining and barring another major flare, should end in 2-3 days. Moderate (G-2) to strong (G-3) geomagnetic storm levels are expected over the next two days.

The NOAA Space Environment Center , one of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, is home to the nation's early warning system for solar activities that directly affect people and equipment on Earth and in space. SEC's 24 hour-a-day, 7 days-a-week operations are critical in protecting space and ground-based assets. Through the SEC, NOAA and the U.S. Air Force jointly operate the space weather operations center that continuously monitors, analyzes and forecasts the environment between the sun and Earth. In addition to the data gathered from NOAA and NASA satellites, the center receives real-time solar and geophysical information from ground based-observatories around the world. The NOAA space weather forecasters use the data to predict solar and geomagnetic activity and issue worldwide alerts of extreme events.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources. NOAA is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Media contact:

Carmeyia Gillis, NOAA Space Environment Center : (301) 763-8000, ext. 7163

Related Web sites:

NOAA Space Environment Center
NOAA Space Weather Scales

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  Page last modified: 11-Mar-2010 9:35 AM