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Expect an explosion of solar activity in the next few years

Solar storms can bring blackouts, scrambled GPS, and beautiful auroas visible even here in Ohio
Solar storms can bring beautiful auroras to much more southern locations than would normally...
Solar storms can bring beautiful auroras to much more southern locations than would normally see them.(ROSS ELLET | WTVG)
Published: Sep. 18, 2020 at 1:17 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - We’re all familiar with the ebb and flow of weather here on Earth, from the relative calm of sunny spring days to the dangerous and damaging storms of the winter and summer months. But did you know the sun also experiences seasons? Solar weather is nothing like it is here on Earth -- there’s no rain or snow -- but there are still storms, and solar scientists say we are primed to see a major increase in solar activity in the years ahead which could have effects here on Earth.

Space scientists say the number of solar flares on the sun has dropped to a decade low over the past year as we have settled into what they call a “solar minimum,” but that period is about to come to an end and outbursts of solar explosions are forecast for the future. Meteorologist Ross Ellet spent some time talking about space weather with Dan Seaton a solar scientist at the University of Colorado who works with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Seaton explained how the weather on the sun oscillates back and forth between seasons of calm and active periods, including frequent outbursts of solar flares and geomagnetic storms. Those storms interact with the electromagnetic field of the Earth and have the potential to create blackouts, scramble GPS signals, and cause radio communication failures.

Of course, solar activity isn’t all doom and gloom for those of us here on Earth. It can also bring beautiful sights to the Northern skies.

“It also affects things like expanded auroras sometimes,” explains Seaton. "When space weather activity increases, the aurora oval can expand so you see it further south. You can see it in Michigan or Ohio.”

Right now, we are in a season of calm, but the solar cycle is expected to buzz with increased activity as soon as late next year. The sun’s stormy season will peak around 2025. Normally, each solar cycle brings a least a couple of these powerful solar storms with the Northern Lights visible from the lower Great Lakes. While this can happen any time during a solar cycle, the odds will increase as we approach the years around 2023-2026.

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