Solar Storm No Biggie, but Brace Yourself...

...because more are expected as sun nears peak of 11-year cycle
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 9, 2012 3:38 AM CST
Updated Mar 9, 2012 7:30 AM CST
The storm caused a spectacular Northern Lights display, but it didn't reach as far south as predicted.   (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Bill Braden)

(Newser) – Turns out space weather forecasts can be as unreliable as terrestrial ones. The solar storm that hit us yesterday was much weaker than expected, and the world's power grids, satellites, and telecommunication systems did not experience problems. "I think we just lucked out," the director of Boston University's Center for Integrated Space Weather Modeling tells AP. "It didn't pack as strong a magnetic field as we were anticipating."

Forecasters can predict the speed and strength of solar storms, but not the north-south orientation, and this storm ended with a northern orientation, which is "pretty benign," a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expert explains. But there could be worse to come. The sun is approaching the peak of its 11-year cycle, and the region that spawned this storm is expected to send more our way. "This is a big sun spot group, particularly nasty," a NASA solar physicist warns. "Things are really twisted up and mixed up. It keeps flaring."

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