Earth is facing a storm alert from an uncommon source: the sun.
A hole on the surface of the sun is letting out solar winds towards Earth, projected to impact the planet on Wednesday, forecasters say.
The projected geomagnetic storm is a G1-class, the weakest of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration rankings for such storms.
The solar winds could cause auroras around the North Pole, as well as weaken power grids and impact satellites. Animals such as birds that rely on the Earth’s magnetic field for navigation would also be impacted, as solar storms interfere with the planet’s magnetism.
Space weather specialist Mike Cook told the Daily Mail that the hole in the sun “enhanced solar wind speeds by shooting solar winds out in a stream.”
Geomagnetic storms can cause a natural electrical current to saturate magnetic material inside the transformers that run our power grids. Saturation can lead to overheating, and throw off the timed cycles used by the grids.
When the cycles are disrupted, protective equipment is tripped, which impacts voltage stability and throws the entire grid off-balance.
For satellites and humans in space, solar winds have a more direct and damaging impact due to radiation. Astronauts are required to stay inside spacecraft during such storms, while satellites launching into a storm are often unable to escape the atmosphere and burn up during their descent.