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It will be worse: scientists expect even more powerful solar flares in the next two years

Dmytro IvancheskulNews
The December 14 flare was caused by an active sunspot called AR 3514

The powerful solar flare that occurred on Thursday, December 14, causing a several-day magnetic storm on Earth with minor radio blackouts in South America, was likely just the tip of the iceberg. The sun is heading towards a solar maximum, which it will reach around July 2025. By then, even more intense flares and coronal mass ejections may occur.

This was told by Dr. Kate Brand, manager of the Australian Space Weather Prediction Center at the Bureau of Meteorology. According to Cosmos, the outbreak on December 14 was the most powerful recorded since 2017.

"As we approach the maximum of solar activity, we will likely see more frequent and potentially more intense solar flares," Brand said.

That powerful flare was caused by an active sunspot called AR 3514 and was registered as a class X2.8 solar flare. X is the most intense of the 5 categories of solar flares, and the number indicates the intensity within the category.

The December 14 flare was also classified as an R3 event. It is the R scale that determines the ability of a flare to cause a radio communication blackout. The most powerful level, which can lead to extreme events, is R5, so it is clear that last week's outbreak posed an average threat to radio communications on Earth.

But in addition to the flare (in other words, a burst of electromagnetic radiation), a coronal mass ejection (CME) also occurred that day. Such an event is somewhat slower but releases both a magnetic field and plasma, which reach the Earth in a few days.

"Solar flares can cause radio interruptions, affecting radio communications, GPS navigation, and radar technology," Brand explained.

CMEs, on the other hand, result in billions of tons of magnetized solar plasma being ejected into space at speeds of up to 3,000 km/s. If the material is directed towards the Earth, geomagnetic and ionospheric storms can occur. Both phenomena can significantly disrupt the operation of technologies in the near-Earth space environment.

At the same time, as Brand emphasizes, solar flares do not always cause coronal mass ejections, but a coronal mass ejection can be associated with a solar flare.

It is important that on December 14, the flare was not directed at the Earth: it affected the planet only partially. This is important as the coincidence of flares and coronal emissions that hit the Earth head-on can cause many more problems.

Earlier, OBOZ.UA reported that in 2024, the Sun will enter the most violent period of its 11-year cycle and may even provoke an Internet blackout that will last several weeks.

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