Solar activity increased to high levels – July 4, 2012 summary


Lot’s of solar flares today… and just when you think it’s over a moderate solar flare reaching M4.6 peaks at 22:09 UTC. That was fifth M-class solar flare for the day.  The source of this latest eruption was Region 1514.

Moderate to Strong solar flares are now taking place frequently and there is an increased chance for a major X-Class solar flare within the next 24-48 hours.

NOAA/SWPC estimates 80% chance for another M-class event and high 25% chance for X-class solar flare!

The day started with M2.3 at 04:37 UTC, then five hours later M5.3 erupted at 09:55 UTC followed by M2.8 more than two hours later at 12:24 UTC. About two hours later, at 14:40 UTC, M1.3 occured. All those flares originated from huge Sunspot 1515 but that wasn’t the only active region that produced M-class flares today. Sunspot 1513 produced M1.8 flare at 16:39 UTC. By the end of the day there was another M-class solar flare from Sunspot 1515 reaching M4.6 at 22:09 UTC.

And don’t forget C-class solar flares – 25 of them in last 48 hours!


For now it looks like these flares didn’t produce Earth-directed Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) but the M1.8 at 16:39 UTC eruption around Sunspot 1513 generated a Coronal Mass Ejection and a portion of it may be Earth directed.

The biggest eruption today was registered as a M5.3 solar flare at 09:55 UTC . This solar flare did produce a bright Coronal Mass Ejection, however once again it appears to be headed mostly to the south.


Chances of an X-flare today are increasing as Sunspot/AR1515 develops a ‘beta-gamma-delta’ magnetic field that harbors energy for the most powerful explosions. The sunspot’s magnetic canopy is crackling with almost-X class flares, the strongest so far being an M5.3 at 09:54 UTC. Each eruption releases more energy than a billion atomic bombs.

The sunspot itself is huge, stretching more than 100,000 km (8 Earth-diameters) from end to end. The sunspot is directly facing our planet, so it is in position to cause radio blackouts, sudden ionospheric disturbances, and geomagnetic storms.

NASA’s SDO movie below shows the behemoth growing and turning toward Earth over the past five days.


Joint USAF/NOAA Report of Solar and Geophysical Activity

(Issued at 2200UTC on 04 Jul 2012)

Solar activity increased to high levels. Region 1515 (S17W23) produced an M5/2b flare at 04/0955Z along with occasional low-level M-class flares including an M2/Sn at 04/0437Z associated with a 150 sfu Tenflare. Spot and penumbral development was evident in the leading half of the region and it retained its beta-gamma-delta magnetic configuration. Coronal mass ejections (CME) were associated with the flare activity in Region 1515, but the bulk of the ejecta was directed southward, out of the ecliptic plane. Region 1513 (N17W36) produced an M1/2n flare at 04/1639Z associated with Types II (estimated shock velocity 807 km/s) and IV radio sweeps and a 200 sfu Tenflare. This event was also associated with a CME that may have had an Earthward component, but further analysis will be required to determine potential geoeffectiveness. Region 1513 showed no significant changes and retained its beta-gamma magnetic configuration. New Regions 1518 (N09E65) and 1519 (S14E76) rotated into view and were numbered late in the period.

Solar activity is expected to be moderate through the period (05 – 07 July) with a chance for an isolated X-class flare from Region 1515.

Geomagnetic field activity was at quiet to unsettled levels with active periods detected at high latitudes. ACE solar wind data indicated Earth remained within a recurrent coronal hole high-speed stream (CH HSS). Solar wind speeds were in the 463 to 601 km/s range and IMF Bz was variable in the +6 to -5 nT range. Todays observed Penticton 10.7 cm flux reading (163 sfu) was flare-enhanced. The greater than 2 MeV electron flux at geosynchronous orbit reached high levels during the period.

Geomagnetic field activity is expected to be at quiet to unsettled levels during the period (05 – 07 July) with a chance for active levels as the CH HSS gradually subsides. Recent CME activity from Region 1515 is not expected to significantly disturb the field.

Sources: SolarHam, SpaceWeather.com, NOAA/SWPC, SolarMonitor, SDO, SOHO, STEREO

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  1. Protect your electronics folks. We’re still about a year away from Solar max and all hell could break lose if we start seeing major X flare activity. Based on what’s currently taking place the odds are getting better and better that such events are imminent. What to do?

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