Solar storms could interfere with electric grid

Two magnetic field eruptions on the sun are sending charged particles toward the Earth that could interfere with the electric grid this weekend.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center said two coronal mass ejections, or bursts of radioactive particles, started to hit the Earth Friday morning.

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Moderate storming is predicted for Friday, though it will become severe Saturday before tapering off.

The risk to electrical systems is low, the agency said. But it still could affect radio transmissions, devices that use Global Positioning System (GPS) and the electric grid.

The interference and storm were caused by solar flares that erupted on the sun on Monday and Wednesday.

“We expect geomagnetic storm levels in the G2 [moderate] and G3 [strong] range,” Bill Murtagh, a NOAA space weather forecaster, told USA Today.

“G2-G3 geomagnetic storms can cause some problems for the [power] grid but are typically very manageable,” he said. “We may also see some anomalies with satellites so satellite operators around the world have been notified. And problems with the accuracy of GPS have been observed with this level of storming.”

The North American Electric Reliability Corp., which is responsible for electric grid reliability, said it was monitoring forecasts and the effects of the storm.