NOAA 2000-054
Contact: Barbara McGehan


The NOAA Space Environment Center in Boulder, Colo., detected a major solar flare at about 15:25 UTC (11:25 a.m. EDT) on June 6, 2000. The SEC is predicting a strong geomagnetic storm to affect Earth from this event. Aimed at Earth, a large coronal mass ejection followed the solar flare, ejecting billions of tons of plasma into space. Solar flares are classified by their peak x-ray intensity. This event was of the highest classification; a class X flare.

SEC forecasters are predicting activity in Earth's magnetic field to increase over the next few days. Strong geomagnetic storm levels (Category G3 on the NOAA Space Weather Scales) are expected on June 8-9. The solar wind and particles produced as a result of this solar flare can cause Auroral displays in the northern latitudes of the United States. Power systems should experience only isolated effects. However, it is possible for satellites to experience surface charging, which can result in arcing between parts of the satellite. Very large geomagnetic storms also cause communication problems with satellites and affect their orbit. Such storms can also interfere with high frequency radio communications.

The large, complex sunspot region currently visible on the face of the Sun has already produced several (R3) radio blackouts. This region will remain visible from Earth for the next eight days. Continued major activity from this region is possible as it makes its transit across the solar disk.

The NASA ACE satellite will detect any geomagnetic storms approaching Earth and provide NOAA with a warning about one hour before they reach Earth's magnetic field.

In March 1989, a solar storm occurred that knocked out the electrical system in all of Quebec and destroyed a large power transformer in New Jersey. That geomagnetic storm was many times greater than this one is predicted to be.

"Compared to the last three 11-year solar cycles this one has been pretty disappointing. But finally, the Sun is starting to flex its muscles," according to solar forecaster Dave Speich.