Does Solar Activity Affect Our Weather?

Weather Talk

POSTED: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 - 1:13pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 - 9:33am

The First X Class Solar Flare of 2014 Erupted Tuesday Sending Billons Of Particles Our Way!

No this "X Class  Solar Flare" is not something created by "Professor X" of Marvel Comics "X Men" Fame, but I have to admit that first came to mind.

Tuesday a Sun Spot exploded sending a blast of electrically charged particles our way, disrupting radio traffic and GPS systems! The X1.2-class flare was recorded by sun-observing satellites, including NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, at about 4:32 p.m.. MT.  NASA says there are more blasts to come this week!

Now according NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) the “X-class flare was also associated with a coronal mass ejection, or CME, another solar phenomenon that can send billions of tons of particles into space that can reach Earth one to three days later. These particles cannot travel through the atmosphere to harm humans on Earth, but they can affect electronic systems in satellites and on the ground.”
There is actually is a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center. Cool stuff! They say the geomagnetic storm generated by Tuesday's flare won't be that disruptive, but it could have an impact. NASA expects the CME to sweep over us somewhere around 5 p.m.. MT Wednesday. There was already a large radio and GPS blackouts caused by this event. The current space weather report says there's a chance we'll see more X-class flares through Friday.

Even in inactive solar cycles, the Sun emits large solar flares and their geomagnetic storms which have to capability to cause billions of dollars in damage to the world's high-tech infrastructure, such as GPS navigation to power grids to disrupting air travel and financial services. The storms cause radiation hazards for astronauts and satellites can be caused by inactive Sun. Weak solar winds allow more galactic cosmic rays into the inner solar system.

The source of all this activity is  a spot named AR1944, one of the biggest sunspots of the past decade and the spot is now facing earth's direction.  The sprawling active region is more than 200,000 km wide and contains dozens of dark cores. Its primary core, all by itself, is large enough to swallow Earth three times over! Crazy!

What's an "X-class" solar flare?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ranks solar flares using five categories from weakest to strongest: A, B, C, M, and X.
Each category is 10 times stronger than the one before it. Within each category, a flare is ranked from 1 to 9, according to strength, although X-class flares can go higher than 9. So Tuesday’s was a the lower end of the strongest X category it was an X1.2. According to NASA, the most powerful solar flare recorded was an X28 (in 2003).
What Is Solar Activity?
The Sun has its own weather and storm’s and the systems are constantly active. These storms can and do affect Earth’s weather.
I thought I would give you some quick definitions;

Sunspots - the magnetic storms spinning around on the surface of the Sun.

Solar flares -are the intense blooms of radiation that come from the release of the magnetic energy associated with sunspots.

Coronal mass ejections- (CMEs) are bursts of solar material (clouds of plasma and magnetic fields) that shoot off the sun's surface.

Solar wind streams- that come from the coronal holes on the Sun

Coronal holes- are areas where the Sun's corona is darker, and colder, and has lower-density plasma than average.

Solar energetic particles- that are primarily released by CMEs and they consist of protons, electrons, helium ions, and HZE ions.

Solar wind streams- The fast-moving component of the solar wind is known to travel along open magnetic field lines that pass through coronal holes.

How Does Solar Activity Affect Weather?

NOAA scientists have determined that four factors determine our worldwide temperatures. They are carbon dioxide levels, volcanic eruptions, Pacific El Niño pattern, and the Sun's activity.
Global climate change including long-term periods of global cold, rainfall, drought, and other weather shifts may also be influenced by solar cycle activity, based on historical evidence.

Research scientists with the Old Farmer’s Almanac have discovered that “During periods of weak solar activity seem to correspond with times of global cold. For example, during the 70-year period from 1645 to 1715, few, if any, sunspots were seen, even during expected sunspot maximums. Western Europe entered a climate period known as the "Maunder Minimum" or "Little Ice Age." Temperatures dropped by 1.8 to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. When there are times of increased solar activity have corresponded with some global warning. During the 12th and 13th centuries, the Sun was active, and the European climate was quite mild.”

One of the benefits of these solar flares are the amazing “Auroral Borealis”  or "Northern Lights" multi colored light shows. You can view these amazing photos online at

To find out the best times these lights will be happening got to:

We are lucky to one of three National Solar Observatories right here in our own backyard! I have been there and it is super cool! The National Solar Observatory (NSO)/Sacramento Peak in Sunspot, New Mexico. If you are planning on visiting go to their website:
Different tours of the summit are available, and be sure to stop by the Visitor's Center.

NSO/Sacramento Peak
3010 Coronal Loop
Sunspot, NM 88349
PH. (575) 434-7000

Chuck DeBroder, Chief Meteorologist
KTSM, NewsChannel 9, NBC, El Paso, TX Chuck DeBroder NC9 @wxchuckNC9

(Photo: NASA/SDO)

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