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What is a CME and Why Should Presidential Candidates Care

January 24, 2012

OK, why am I sick of hearing the same words over and over … from both sides of today’s political debates.  All candidates can talk about is how each side is wasting taxpayer money, government resources and how religious they are.  As the players hurl vicious attacks at each other, hoping to endear gullible and extremist voters, Republicans and Democrats and even Libertarians are totally ignoring the biggest picture of all.  What is really happening on our planet, Earth.  No one appears to have a serious approach to climate disasters, beyond FEMA funding.  There is no clear plan offered by any side to take earth’s cycles or the solar system cycles, seriously.  Whatever financial shape we find ourselves in right now will not change what the earth will be experiencing in the next few years or decades.  The human population of this planet has no clear, practical guidance to help themselves.

CME events happened on Tuesday, January 24, 2012. We are currently in Solar Cycle 24.  Scientists predict this cycle will be the “quietest” in 50 years.  You can find predictions all over the scale.  Some say “this is earth’s final chapter”, some say “not”.  Whatever happens, earth will be here.  Whether it will support life is anyone’s guess.  Since earth began, it has experimented with many forms of life.  We cannot ignore that earth’s ability to support certain life forms changes on a cyclic basis.  This planet periodically changes it’s biosphere, and that changes the life forms capable of surviving. Whether humankind is capable of surviving the next life cycle or biosphere reset is questionable.   

World leaders are not publicly addressing the earth/planet issue seriously.  Maybe that is because nothing they can do will change what will happen.  They refuse to show their own helplessness so they ignore it altogether.  But, Religions are having a heyday with the coming changes.  They can rake in the money while believers and faithful blindly give it all up for whichever deity or prophet they follow.  They prepare people’s minds to accept destruction in the name of whoever they follow.

Main Stream Media is complicit pulling the blanket of disinformation over everyone’s eyes.  What does MSM focus on?  You see tasty tidbits of political rancor, heart stopping social events like celebrity breakups, celebrity trouble with the law, and corporate fixation on erectile dysfunction.

We see wealthy individuals, with adequate resources of their own, are not concerned, because they have already made provisions for protecting themselves.  They buy missile silos, dig bunkers and compounds, decked out with arsenals and food to last for months or years.  It is written across their attitude that they could give two shits about the rest of us, when a global event happens. Our politicians follow the MSM attitude, throw more rancor and forget common sense.  They cannot even answer the simplest scientific questions about the earth, our planet, or our solar system.  We live on the earth and the earth resides in a solar system.  Our solar System resides in a Galaxy that throws interesting things at us … some of which could change everything.  Delusion and Denial are not protection.  Awareness is important.

UPDATE: 8 March 2012 – Solar Bursts Spray Earth, With More to Come

Solar storms like the one that buffeted the Earth’s magnetic field on Thursday will soon become a common occurrence…. There has been a five-year lull in strong solar storms because the ferocity and pace of the Sun’s flares and magnetic eruptions rise and fall on an 11-year cycle, and the Sun has only recently emerged from its slumber and started generating new solar flares.  “We’re getting the first few snowfalls of the year, so to speak,” said Robert Rutledge, lead of the forecast office at the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colo., part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  During the course of a typical cycle, some 200 solar storms as strong as Thursday’s will hit Earth. Even though the current cycle appears quieter than usual, such storms could strike Earth a few times a week when the cycle peaks in the next year or so.  If the cycle matches the usual pattern, about a tenth as many of the solar storms — 10 to 20 — would reach the stronger, “severe” level and one or two would be described as “extreme.”  It is the most powerful storms that generate real worry. In addition to knocking out power grids, the larger solar storms can also damage satellites or pose a health hazard to astronauts on the International Space Station.

UPDATE:  7 March 2012 Last updated at 18:41 ET

Fears of disruption as big solar storm set to hit Earth  

A strong solar storm is expected to hit Earth shortly, and experts warn it could disrupt power grids, satellite navigations systems and plane routes.  The storm – the largest in five years – will unleash a torrent of charged particles between 06:00 GMT and 10:00 GMT, US weather specialists say.  They say it was triggered by a pair of massive solar flares earlier this week.  It means there is a good chance of seeing the northern lights at higher latitudes, if the skies are clear.

The effects will be most intense in polar regions, and aircraft may be advised to change their routings to avoid these areas.

The charged particles are expected to hit Earth at 4,000,000 mph (6,400,000 km/h), and Noaa predicts the storm will last until Friday morning (March 9, 2012).

Christian Science Monitor: Will the solar storm disrupt power grids? (+video)

“Space weather has gotten very interesting over the last 24 hours,” Joseph Kunches, a space weather scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), told reporters today (March 7). “This was quite the Super Tuesday — you bet.”  The sun has hurled a cloud of charged particles in our direction, potentially disrupting satellites and inducing current in our power grids.  By Denise March 7, 2012  A massive solar flare that erupted from the sun late Tuesday (March 6) is unleashing one of the most powerful solar storms in more than five years, a solar tempest that may potentially interfere with satellites in orbit and power grids when it reaches Earth.  Early predictions estimate that the CME will reach Earth tomorrow (March 8) at 7 a.m. EST (1200 GMT), with the effects likely lasting for 24 hours, and possibly lingering into Friday, Kunches said.

The solar eruptions occurred late Tuesday night when the sun let loose two huge X-class solar flares that ranked among the strongest type of sun storms. The biggest of those flares registered as an X5.4-class solar storm on the space weather scale, making it the strongest sun eruption so far this year. [See photos & videos of the solar storm]

“It complicates the forecasting and predicting because there are always inherent uncertainties with any single event. Now, with multiple events piling on top of one another, that uncertainty grows.”  Scientists are closely monitoring the situation, particularly because the AR1429 sunspot region remains potent.  “We think there will be more coming,” Kunches said. “The potential for more activity still looms.”  As the sun rotates, the AR1429 region is shifting closer to the central meridian of the solar disk. From there, flares and associated CMEs may pack more a punch because they are more directly pointed at Earth.

“The sun is waking up at a time in the month when Earth is coming into harm’s way,” Spence said. “Think of these CMEs somewhat like a bullet that is shot from the sun in more or less a straight line. When the sunspot is right in the middle of the sun, something launched from there is more or less directed right at Earth. It’s kind of like how getting sideswiped by a car is different than a head-on collision. Even still, being sideswiped by a big CME can be quite dramatic.”

Huge explosions on the sun’s surface are sparking the biggest radiation and geomagnetic storm that Earth has experienced in five years, according to space weather experts.

When you Google CME what do you get?  Corporate initials.  You have to specifically type Coronal Mass Ejection or you get:

CME Group is the world’s leading and most diverse derivatives marketplace offering the widest range of benchmark futures and options

CME Group offers the widest range of agricultural commodity futures and options

CME Colorado Airport ground transportation shuttle service

Continuing medical education (CME) refers to a specific form of continuing education

… and way down the list is:  Cosmicopia at NASA/GSFC – Sun – Solar Activity – Coronal Mass Ejections.

*** This original post was  before the big solar event in January 2012.  At approximately 11:00 am Eastern time, the Earth came into contact with the largest Coronal Mass Ejection since 2005—a huge burst of charged particles and magnetic fields exploded off the surface of the sun Sunday night.

Scientists have been tracking it as it headed our way. In fact, intrepid astronomy reporter Lee Billings contacted me this morning to tell me that ejection had just passed our Advanced Composition Explorer satellite, which is why we have such a precise estimate of when it would hit Earth. Despite the size of this CME, Billings says it probably won’t cause any major damage. However, a larger CME that hit us with less warning very well could be a huge problem. That’s because CME’s can interfere, to varying degrees, with radio communications, GPS signals, and lots of other electronic stuff that we’ve come to rely on. What’s more, Billings says, our warning system is aging fast. That ACE satellite, for instance, has enough fuel to survive to 2024, but it’s equipment is old enough that it’s likely to fail at any time.

Lee Billings has written a great piece on Coronal Mass Ejections and the very real risks they pose to modern technology over at Popular Mechanics. It’s a great breakdown of what CME’s can do and what we do to prepare for them that manages to get the risks right, without becoming too hyperbolic and apocalyptic-y. It’s 10:59 AM now. Happy CME!

A geomagnetic storm produces dangerous electrical currents in a manner analogous to a moving bar magnet raising currents in a coil of wire. When a CME hits the Earth’s magnetic field and sends it oscillating, those undulating magnetic fields raise currents in conductive material within and on the Earth itself. The currents that ripple through our planet can easily enter transformers that serve as nodes in regional, national, and global power grids. They can also seep into and corrode the steel in lengthy stretches of oil and gas pipeline.

WIKI definition:

A coronal mass ejection (CME) is a massive burst of solar wind, other light isotope plasma, and magnetic fields rising above the solar corona or being released into space.[1]

Coronal mass ejections are often associated with other forms of solar activity, most notably solar flares, but a causal relationship has not been established. Most ejections originate from active regions on Sun’s surface, such as groupings of sunspots associated with frequent flares. Near solar maxima the Sun produces about three CMEs every day, whereas near solar minima there is about one CME every five days.[2]

Largest Solar Storm Since 2005 to Hit Earth Tuesday

The solar storm front from the ionized blast, called a coronal mass ejection (CME), should arrive tomorrow morning, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC). The forecasters called the event the strongest solar storm since 2005.

The SWPC is forecasting that the inbound storm will reach G2 (“moderate”) and possibly G3 (“strong”) levels on the geomagnetic storm scale, which tops out at G5. A G3 storm should not cause severe problems for satellite operators or power companies but could interrupt satellite-based navigation systems and some radio communications. Such storms can also produce auroras visible as far south as Illinois and Oregon, according to the SWPC.

CME IMPACT: As expected, a CME hit Earth’s magnetic field on Jan. 24th at approximately 1500 UT (10 am EST). Geomagnetic storms are likely in the hours ahead. If it’s dark where you live, go outside and look for auroras.

Sun hurls strong geomagnetic storm toward Earth (Reuters) The strongest geomagnetic storm in more than six years was forecast to hit Earth’s magnetic field on Tuesday, and it could affect airline routes, power grids and satellites, the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center said.  A coronal mass ejection – a big chunk of the Sun’s atmosphere – was hurled toward Earth on Sunday, driving energized solar particles at about 5 million miles an hour (2,000 km per second), about five times faster than solar particles normally travel, the center’s Terry Onsager said.

“When it hits us, it’s like a big battering ram that pushes into Earth’s magnetic field,” Onsager said from Boulder, Colorado. “That energy causes Earth’s magnetic field to fluctuate.”

Comet Corpses in the Solar Wind

Jan. 20, 2012: A paper published in today’s issue of Science raises an intriguing new possibility for astronomers: unearthing comet corpses in the solar wind.  The new research is based on dramatic images of a comet disintegrating in the sun’s atmosphere last July.

Comet Lovejoy grabbed headlines in Dec. 2011 when it plunged into the sun’s atmosphere and emerged again relatively intact.  But it was not the first comet to graze the sun. Last summer a smaller comet took the same trip with sharply different results. Comet C/2011 N3 (SOHO) was completely destroyed on July 6, 2011, when it swooped 100,000 km above the stellar surface.  NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) recorded the disintegration.

A key finding was the amount of material deposited into the sun’s atmosphere.  “The comet dissolved into more than a million tons of electrically charged gas,” says Pesnell.  “We believe these vapors eventually mixed with the solar wind and blew back into the solar system.”

The Looming Threat of a Solar Superstorm – Popular Mechanics

“The physics of the Sun and of Earth’s magnetic field have not fundamentally changed, but we have,” Kappenman says. “We decided to build the power grids, and we’ve progressively made them more vulnerable as we’ve connected them to every aspect of our lives. Another Carrington Event is going to occur someday.” But unlike in 1859, when the telegraph network was the sole technology endangered by space weather, or in 1921, when electrification was in its infancy, today’s vulnerable systems are legion.

M8.7 Solar Flare and Earth Directed CME  The sun erupted late on January 22, 2012 with an M8.7 class flare, an earth-directed coronal mass ejection (CME), and a burst of fast moving, highly energetic protons known as a “solar energetic particle” event. The latter has caused the strongest solar radiation storm since September 2005 according to NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center.

NASA’s Goddard Space Weather Center’s models predict that the CME is moving at almost 1,400 miles per second, and could reach Earth’s magnetosphere – the magnetic envelope that surrounds Earth — as early as tomorrow, Jan 24 at 9 AM ET (plus or minus 7 hours). This has the potential to provide good auroral displays, possibly at lower latitudes than normal.

An article was published on NASA’s website in 2006 (during the last solar minimum) titled Solar Storm Warning . This article by Science@NASA’s Dr. Tony Philips explains that the 2012 solar max will be the greatest since 1958 (when the Northern Lights were visible in Mexico).

What does this blog post have to do with the 2012 US Presidential Election?  I want to emphasize that this election season is all about who wants to control your ability to survive.  You would have to be totally removed from current affairs and current events to have missed the “Breaking News” about weather, earthquake, fire, drought and flood disasters around this country and around the world.

The totally disconnected among us can enjoy “LaLa land” and go about their merry way. The Doom and Gloom survivalists can dig their rabbit holes and nest with their families. But, please do not interfere with those of us who want a chance at survival, too I will not tell anyone how to vote, I will tell everyone to ask pertinent questions and make an informed decision that does not hurt anyone else’s chance at survival.

Some of our candidates want to show off  their ability to destroy this planet faster than Mother Nature.  Pipelines transporting, or spilling, toxic fluids to satisfy America’s addiction to fossil fuel.  Offshore deep drilling rigs that can destroy our oceans.  Some of our candidates want to destroy more lives by inflating the Military Industrial Complex to kill even more humans, or selling more guns so they can kill each other.  The GOP wants to die rich.  Progressives want to die with dignity.  I guess I want to die with dignity.

I choose NOT to run to any church to confirm that we all may perish anyway.  I will face whatever comes my way with my own perception of human dignity.



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