National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Since space weather has limited direct physical impacts on Earth, most of the actions taken during a solar storm are to mitigate the secondary impacts of an event, such as power outages, loss of water supply, etc. The actual storm can last anywhere from minutes to hours, but the resulting impacts can last for hours to weeks or longer. Conservation during and after a storm is key in the rare case of an extreme storm.

  • Follow energy conservation measures to minimize use of electricity, which can help power companies avoid imposing rolling blackouts during periods when the power grid is compromised.
  • Follow the Emergency Alert System instructions carefully.
  • Restrict phone usage to emergency situations only to keep lines open for emergency personnel and improve thier response time.
  • Avoid using elevators.
  • Review evacuation plans, supply lists such as medications, and family contact lists.

The Aurora Borealis or "Northern Lights" and the Aurora Australis or "Southern Lights" occur during geomagnetic storms when charged particles impact the Earth's upper atmosphere. Usually they are only visible in the far northern and southern polar regions. But during an extreme space weather event, the Aurora will become very intense and will be visible in places that usually never see these elusive night lights. For example, during the extreme events that occurred around Halloween of 2003, the Aurora Borealis was visible as far south as Texas. In the largest geomagnetic storm ever recorded in 1859, the Aurora was visible in El Salvador!