NOAA 2001-099
Contact: Barbara McGehan


A strong solar storm is rapidly approaching Earth, according to forecasters at the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Environment Center in Boulder, Colo. The storm is expected to reach the Earth's magnetic field sometime after 8 p.m. EDT Sept. 25, and continue for several days.

The storm is the result of a full halo Coronal Mass Ejection which can carry billions of tons of electrified gases moving at up to a couple of thousand miles per second. Such a CME, or solar flare, was observed by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) mission operations center run by NASA and the European Space Agency.

While CME's pose little direct danger to people, they can have significant effects. In extreme cases, a strong solar wind can disrupt satellite operations, causing cell phones to malfunction. Blackouts may result from storm interference with electric power transmission equipment.

The flare that erupted on September 24th came from an active region of the sun that forecasters will continue to watch. "The region will be visible to scientific observers for another seven days," said Joseph Kunches, acting chief of NOAA Space Weather Operations. "We could easily get another storm out of that region."

One of the typical effects of a strong solar storm is the occurrence of Aurora Borealis or "northern lights". The northern lights from this storm may be visible beginning Tuesday evening, Sept. 25 over most of the continental United States. While northen lights are usually visible at higher latitudes, they have been seen as far south as Florida during very intense disturbances.

The storm triggered by yesterday's intense solar flare has been rated as very strong by NOAA Space Weather forecasters. Its effects may continue to be felt for the next couple of days.

NOAA's Space Environment Center is the nation's official source of space weather alerts and warnings and continually monitors and forecasts Earth's space environment.

For more information, consult the SEC Web site at: and look under Space Weather Now.