Storm Scales

Scale for Solar Geomagnetic Storms (From NOAA Space Weather)

 

Scale

Category

Severity

Effect On Astronomical and Global Communications, Humans, Computers, etc.

Duration of event will influence severity of effects

Physical measure

and

Kp values*
determined every 3 hours

Average Frequency
(1 cycle = 11 years)

&

Number of storm events when Kp level was met;
(number of storm days)

G 5

Extreme

Power systems: : widespread voltage control problems and protective system problems can occur, some grid systems may experience complete collapse or blackouts. Transformers may experience damage.

Spacecraft operations: may experience extensive surface charging, problems with orientation, uplink/downlink and tracking satellites.

Other systems: pipeline currents can reach hundreds of amps, HF (high frequency) radio propagation may be impossible in many areas for one to two days, satellite navigation may be degraded for days, low-frequency radio navigation can be out for hours, and aurora has been seen as low as Florida and southern Texas (typically 40° geomagnetic lat.)**.

Kp = 9

4 per cycle
(4 days per cycle)

G 4

Severe

Power systems: possible widespread voltage control problems and some protective systems will mistakenly trip out key assets from the grid.

Spacecraft operations: may experience surface charging and tracking problems, corrections may be needed for orientation problems.

Other systems: induced pipeline currents affect preventive measures, HF radio propagation sporadic, satellite navigation degraded for hours, low-frequency radio navigation disrupted, and aurora has been seen as low as Alabama and northern California (typically 45° geomagnetic lat.)**.

Kp = 8, including a 9-

100 per cycle
(60 days per cycle)

G 3

Strong

Power systems: voltage corrections may be required, false alarms triggered on some protection devices.

Spacecraft operations: surface charging may occur on satellite components, drag may increase on low-Earth-orbit satellites, and corrections may be needed for orientation problems.

Other systems: intermittent satellite navigation and low-frequency radio navigation problems may occur, HF radio may be intermittent, and aurora has been seen as low as Illinois and Oregon (typically 50° geomagnetic lat.)**.

Kp = 7

200 per cycle
(130 days per cycle)

G 2

Moderate

Power systems: high-latitude power systems may experience voltage alarms, long-duration storms may cause transformer damage.

Spacecraft operations: corrective actions to orientation may be required by ground control; possible changes in drag affect orbit predictions.

Other systems: HF radio propagation can fade at higher latitudes, and aurora has been seen as low as New York and Idaho (typically 55° geomagnetic lat.)**.

Kp = 6

600 per cycle
(360 days per cycle)

G 1

Minor

Power systems: weak power grid fluctuations can occur.

Spacecraft operations: minor impact on satellite operations possible.

Other systems: migratory animals are affected at this and higher levels; aurora is commonly visible at high latitudes (northern Michigan and Maine)**.

Kp = 5

1700 per cycle
(900 days per cycle)

* Based on this measure, but other physical measures are also considered.
** For specific locations around the globe, use geomagnetic latitude to determine likely sightings (Tips on Viewing the Aurora)


 

 

Scale for Solar Radiation Storms (From NOAA Space Weather)

 

Scale

and

Category

 

Severity

 

Effect On Astronomical and Global Communications, Humans, Computers, etc.

(Duration of event will influence severity of effects)

Physical measure

and

Flux level of >= 10 MeV particles (ions)*

Average Frequency
(1 cycle = 11 years)

and

Number of events when flux level was met (number of storm days**)

S 5

Extreme

Biological: unavoidable high radiation hazard to astronauts on EVA (extra-vehicular activity); high radiation exposure to passengers and crew in commercial jets at high latitudes (approximately 100 chest x-rays) is possible.

Satellite operations: satellites may be rendered useless, memory impacts can cause loss of control, may cause serious noise in image data, star-trackers may be unable to locate sources; permanent damage to solar panels possible.

Other systems: complete blackout of HF (high frequency) communications possible through the polar regions, and position errors make navigation operations extremely difficult.

105

Fewer than 1 per cycle

S 4

Severe

Biological: unavoidable radiation hazard to astronauts on EVA; elevated radiation exposure to passengers and crew in commercial jets at high latitudes (approximately 10 chest x-rays) is possible.

Satellite operations: may experience memory device problems and noise on imaging systems; star-tracker problems may cause orientation problems, and solar panel efficiency can be degraded.

Other systems: blackout of HF radio communications through the polar regions and increased navigation errors over several days are likely.

104

3 per cycle

 

S 3

Strong

Biological: radiation hazard avoidance recommended for astronauts on EVA; passengers and crew in commercial jets at high latitudes may receive low-level radiation exposure (approximately 1 chest x-ray).

Satellite operations: single-event upsets, noise in imaging systems, and slight reduction of efficiency in solar panel are likely.

Other systems: degraded HF radio propagation through the polar regions and navigation position errors likely.

103

10 per cycle

 

S 2

Moderate

Biological: none.

Satellite operations: infrequent single-event upsets possible.

Other systems: small effects on HF propagation through the polar regions and navigation at polar cap locations possibly affected.

102

25 per cycle

S 1

Minor

Biological: none.

Satellite operations: none.

Other systems: minor impacts on HF radio in the polar regions.

10

50 per cycle

* Flux levels are 5 minute averages. Flux in particles·s-1·ster-1·cm-2. Based on this measure, but other physical measures are also considered.
** These events can last more than one day.

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