Scientists Issue Warning As Biggest Solar Storm In Nearly 20 Years Could Cause Internet And Phone Blackout Today

The warning comes after two massive sunspots merged in unusual event.

Solar Flare

Scientists warn that the largest solar storm in nearly 20 years might bring an internet and phone blackout today.

The warning was issued when two huge sunspots merged.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has issued a warning about technological disruptions due to a 'severe' solar storm.

The organization issued the warning this week after two giant sunspots fused and emitted many solar flares, two of which were classified as X-class, the largest category.

The flares, known as coronal mass ejections (CME), are likely to arrive late today (10 May) or early the next day.

As the sunspots merged, the NOAA raised its geomagnetic solar storm watch from level 3 ('moderate') to level 4 ('severe').

The NOAA stated that the 'severe' level is 'very rare', and that "this is an unusual event."

"NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC)- a division of the National Weather Service - is monitoring the sun following a series of solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that began on May 8," the agency stated in a statement regarding the storm.

"Space weather forecasters have issued a Severe (G4) Geomagnetic Storm Watch for the evening of Friday."

The NOAA is sharing updates online. (X/@NWSSWPC)
The NOAA is sharing updates online. (X/@NWSSWPC)

The Geomagnetic Storm Watch was last listed as 'severe' in January 2005.

The Space Weather Prediction Center said in a statement: "These two sunspot clusters are magnetically complex and much larger than Earth. Together they have been the source of frequent M-class flares (minor to moderate).

"RGN 3664 (the combined sunspot region) continues to grow and increase in magnetic complexity and has evolved into a higher threat of increased solar flare risk."

The effects of CMEs could range from the display of the northern lights to blackouts of high-frequency radio, satellite communication, and GPS issues, such as increased range error.

Irregularities in power systems may also cause false alerts on security devices.

According to Professor Peter Becker of George Mason University, we can normally see the flash of a CME from Earth, with about 18-24 hours of 'notice' before the particles arrive and 'start interfering with Earth's magnetic field'.

Blackouts and disruptions may last a few hours when the solar storm reaches its maximum strength, although it may then subside over the weekend.

Geomagnetic storms may have an impact on technology, but they are not considered dangerous to humans.

If the storm knocks out your technology, inhabitants in Canada and the United States, including North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, may be able to see the Northern Lights.