The sun is threatening to get worse after solar activity sent out a stream of Solar Flares this week, culminating in a flare that had many watchers of the NOAA fearing for a possible solar storm earlier than NASA predicted. With 14 M class solar flares and even an X class event, it seems the sun is getting more active by the day. But what are these different solar classifications and what do they mean for us here on Earth?
Scientists developed a solar flare classification system based on the Angrotrom wavelength range. The three categories are divided up from smallest to largest. At their smallest are C class flares. C class flares are smaller flares with little to no noticeable effect on Earth. But as we go up in scale, the effects can range from radio broadcast difficulties to extreme effects from solar events. Medium sized flares are known as M class flares. There have been fourteen of these in the past few days. After this are X class flares. X class flares are the most profoundly devastating, and according to the NOAA these could trigger planet-wide radio blackouts and long term radiation storms. The X class flare that was released last night But an X class flare does not necessarily guarantee any major effects will be felt here on Earth.
In February the largest X class flare at the time was released and passed by the Earth but few noticeable effects were felt. As the day progressed more flares were released and hit Earth. But this latest onslaught of solar activity may be soon followed by an even larger X class flare which could prove devastating if it were to release a large enough blast. Through this increasing solar activity there have been dozens of M class solar flares with no noticeable effects for those of us on Earth.
But there are unverified claims that these flares can cause other effects on Earth including Earthquakes and unusual weather patterns. With scientists still attempting to fully understand the vast complex systems surrounding solar activity, there are many who suggest the X factor we have not yet been able to fully determine may not actually originate on Earth at all, but rather with the sun.
Of course the most iconic event when it comes to solar activity is the 1859 Carrington event. In 1859 telegraphers found themselves using equipment that would spark and overload, even smoldering in some instances from the intense solar activity. Such an event to day would cripple or even disable most governments of the world and result in widespread chaos that could take several years to fully recover from. The most disturbing element of the Carrington event is the fact that it did indeed happen already and could again with the activity of a largely unpredictable body we have all come to depend on. Are we looking at another Carrington Event in the works? Scientists have not committed to anything yet, but NASA warned that a solar event such as this could cause widespread devastation and predicted it as a possibility as early as 2013.