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Geomagnetic Storm Alert
Released: 7/14/2000

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Don Herzog 1-click interview
Phone: 303-273-8487

The worldwide network of Magnetic Observatories operated by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is on the alert for a significant increase in geomagnetic activity over the next 24-48 hours. This activity may signal the onset of a major geomagnetic storm. While geomagnetic storms give rise to the beautiful Northern lights, they can also pose a serious threat for commercial and military satellite operators, power companies, astronauts, and they can even shorten the life of oil pipelines in Alaska by increasing pipeline corrosion.

Activity on the Sun during the past week has caused the geomagnetic field to be moderately disturbed. ESA/NASA reports that a powerful X5-class solar flare occurred today, July 14, at about 6:03 a.m. EST, accompanied by a fast moving Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). The material from this explosion is expected to arrive at the Earth’s Magnetosphere by sometime Saturday, July 15, and is likely to produce geomagnetic activity and a resulting aurora that could be visible in the mid-latitudes.

Geomagnetic storms occur when plasma, a hot ionized gas of charged particles produced by eruptions on the Sun, impacts the Earth’s magnetic field causing it to fluctuate wildly. These fluctuations cause currents to flow in conductors on the ground and in space. Solar eruptions can produce billions of tons of plasma traveling at speeds in excess of a million miles an hour.

The USGS provides valuable geomagnetic data to a wide variety of users and organizations that are affected by geomagnetic storms. The agency operates a network of 14 magnetic observatories that continuously monitor the Earth’s magnetic field. The data are collected in near-real time via satellite to a downlink center located in Golden, Colo., and provided to numerous customers including NOAA’s Space Environment Center and the U.S. Air Force Space Command Center. Plots of the data from these observatories can be seen on-line at: http://geomag.usgs.gov/frames/plots.htm

The USGS serves the nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life.

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