List of solar storms

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A coronal mass ejection with the surrounding cloud visible

Solar storms of different types are caused by disturbances on the Sun, most often coronal clouds associated with coronal mass ejections (CMEs) produced by solar flares emanating from active sunspot regions, or, less often, from coronal holes. Solar filaments (solar prominences) may also trigger CMEs, trigger flares, or occur in conjunction with flares, and the associated CMEs can be intensified. Minor to active solar storms (i.e. storming restricted to higher latitudes) may occur under elevated background solar wind conditions when the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) orientation is southward, toward the Earth (which also leads to much stronger storming conditions from CME-related sources).[1][2][3][4][5]

Background[edit]

Active stars produce disturbances in space weather with the field of heliophysics, the science that studies such phenomena; itself primarily an interdisciplinary combination of solar physics and planetary science (long-term space weather patterns comprise space climate).

In the Solar System, the Sun can produce intense geomagnetic and energetic particle storms capable of causing severe damage to technology including but not limited to large scale power outages, disruption or blackouts of radio communications (including GPS), and temporary to permanent disabling of satellites and other spaceborne technology. Intense solar storms may also be hazardous to high-latitude, high-altitude aviation[6] and to human spaceflight.[7] Geomagnetic storms are the cause of auroras.[8] The most significant known solar storm, across the most parameters, occurred in September 1859 and is known as the "Carrington event".[9] The damage from the most potent solar storms is capable of existentially threatening the stability of modern human civilization,[10][7] although proper preparedness and mitigation can substantially reduce the hazards.[11][12]

Proxy data from Earth, as well as analysis of stars similar to the Sun suggest that it may be capable of producing so called superflares, those which are much larger than any flares in the historical record (as much as 1000x stronger every 5000 years),[13][14][15] but it contradicts the models of solar flares[16] and to the statistic of extreme solar events reconstructed using cosmogenic isotope data in terrestrial archives.[17] The discrepancy is not yet resolved and may be related to a biased statistic of the stellar population of solar analogs [18]

Notable events[edit]

Electromagnetic, geomagnetic, and/or particle storms[edit]

Proxy evidence[edit]

NB: This section contains a list of possible events that are indicated by indirect, or proxy data. The scientific value of such data remains unresolved.[19] For example, a paper[20] by Usoskin in 2012 lists many years in which there is evidence for solar storms, including: 2225 and 1485 BCE, as well as 95, 265, 1460, 1505, 1707, 1709, 1710, and 1810 CE. However, these studies must be corroborated by subsequent studies.
Events indicated by multiple proxy-data studies

Direct measurements and/or visual observations[edit]

Date Event Significance
Mar 1582 Great magnetic storms of March 1582 Prolonged severe-extreme geomagnetic storm produced aurora to 28.8° magnetic latitude (MLAT) and ≈33.0° invariant latitude (ILAT).[32][33]
Feb 1730 [34] at least as intense as the 1989 event but less intense than the Carrington event
Sep 1770 [35][36]
Sep 1859 Solar storm of 1859 Also known as the Carrington Event, the most extreme storm ever documented by most measures; telegraph machines reportedly shocked operators and caused small fires; aurora visible in tropical areas; first solidly established connection of flares to geomagnetic disturbances. Extreme storming directly preceded this event in late August.
Feb 1872 [37]
Nov 1882 17-20 November 1882[38]
Oct 1903 Solar storm of Oct-Nov 1903[39][40] An extreme storm, estimated at Dst -531 nT arose from a fast CME (mean ≈1500 km/s), occurred during the ascending phase of the minimum of the relatively weak solar cycle 14, which is the most significant storm on record in a solar minimum period. Aurora was conservatively observed to ≈44.1° ILAT, and widespread disruptions and overcharging of telegraph systems occurred.
Sep 1909 Geomagnetic storm of September 1909[41] Dst calculated to have reached -595 nT, comparable to the March 1989 event
May 1921 May 1921 geomagnetic storm[42] Among most extreme known geomagnetic storms; farthest equatorward (lowest latitude) aurora ever documented; burned out fuses, electrical apparatus, and telephone station; caused fires at signal tower and telegraph station; total communications blackouts lasting several hours. A paper[43] in 2019 estimates intensity of −907±132 nT.
Jan 1938 25-26 January 1938 geomagnetic storm ("Fátima storm")
Sep 1941 [44]
Mar 1946 Geomagnetic storm of March 1946 Est. Dstm of 512 nT[45][46]
Feb 1956 [47][48][49]
Sep 1957 Geomagnetic storm of September 1957[50]
Feb 1958 Geomagnetic storm of February 1958[50]
Jul 1959 Geomagnetic storm of July 1959[50]
May 1967 [51] Blackout of polar surveillance radars during Cold War led U.S. military to scramble for nuclear war until solar origin confirmed
Aug 1972 Solar storm of August 1972[52] Fastest CME transit time recorded; most extreme solar particle event (SPE) by some measures and the most hazardous to human spaceflight during the Space Age; severe technological disruptions, caused accidental detonation of numerous magnetic-influence sea mines
Mar 1989 March 1989 geomagnetic storm Most extreme storm of the Space Age by several measures; outed power grid of province of Quebec
Aug 1989 [53]
Nov 1991 Geomagnetic storm of November 1991 [54] An intense solar storm with about half the energy output of the March 1989 storm. Aurorae were visible in the US as far south as Texas[55]
Apr 2000 [56]
Jul 2000 Bastille Day event
Apr 2001 [56]
Nov 2001 Geomagnetic storm of November 2001 A fast-moving CME triggered vivid aurorae as far south as Texas, California, and Florida [57]
Oct 2003 Halloween solar storms, 2003[58][59] Among top few most intense storms of the Space Age
Nov 2003 Solar storms of November 2003[50] 2021 study estimated Dstm of 533 nT[45]
Jan 2005 [60][61]

Events not affecting Earth[edit]

The above events affected Earth (and its vicinity, known as the magnetosphere), whereas the following events were directed elsewhere in the Solar System and were detected by monitoring spacecraft or other means.

Date(s) Event Significance
4 November 2003 Extreme solar flare[62][63][64] Strongest solar flare ever recorded at an estimated X28-X45+
23 July 2012 Solar storm of 2012[65][66][67][68][69] Ultrafast CME directed away from Earth with characteristics that may have made it a Carrington-class storm

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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