Boulder scientists: Solar storm causing few problems on Earth

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BOULDER, Colo. -- It's the most powerful solar storm in five years.

And when it hit the earth early Thursday, many predicted major disruptions in communication systems.

But we seem to be weathering the storm.

It's still not over but so far, we've gotten through the solar storm without any noticeable impact on things like satellite transmissions, or cell phone service.

But we are not out of the woods yet, since this is part of an eleven year solar cycle that is just starting to reach its peak.

This is where they watch the sun. At the nation's space weather prediction center... inside NOAA in Boulder.

Late Tuesday scientists here watched bursts of electromagnetic energy, light and X-rays exploding in solar flares. Followed by what happened early Thursday.

"The coronal mass ejection or this billion ton cloud of mass slammed into the earth,” said Bob Rutledge lead forecaster of the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center, “So what we get from that is a geomagnetic storm."

It literally shakes up our planet's magnetic field, which can create havoc with all kinds of communications and electrical systems.

“We have customers in the airline industry satellite industry the power and distribution communities," said Rutledge.

“Thank you for calling Metro Taxi, this is Jermaine. How can I help you?" said one of more than a dozen operators manning computer terminals in the Metro Taxi Communications Center in Denver.

Metro relies on NOAA's solar flare advisories while juggling hundreds of cabs all over the region ... with GPS, cell phone and radio dispatching systems.

"If we're experiencing any statistical glitches, if our phone system goes down, if our GPS system goes down,” said Larry Stevenson Metro Taxi’s Communications Director, “We'll be alerted by way of our system and our taxi drivers and of course our customers ."

Dispatchers communicate any glitches to a central system.

While all of the drivers continue to monitor the situation it appears like most of the companies we've talked to, they've weathered the solar storms.

Some airlines rerouted flights as a precaution, but NOAA says the worst has likely passed.

And the solar storms caused few if any reported problems for power companies, public transportation, radio and TV transmissions or even cell phone service.

We're not completely done with this event however, since these storms take about 24 hours to run their course.

One more impact for Thursday night, many in the northern United States might be able to see the northern lights because of this solar storm ... far more to the south than usual.

We might be a little too far south in Colorado, but if you want to take a look, the best viewing time is said to be at around midnight. Look up about “two fists above the horizon” to see if there is what scientists call a false sunrise.

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