May 13, 2024 Space Weather FAQ

May 13, 2024

Q1. Is there any connection between the recent geomagnetic storm and the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP)?

No. The amazing aurora activity over the weekend seen across the globe was produced solely by a severe geomagnetic storm that was produced by our sun. The sun's activity has been well monitored and the storm's activity was reported multiple times over the weekend by NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center. NOAA predicted the storm and has been preparing scientists for the event. You can learn more about space weather and its effects at https:/ A geomagnetic storm is a major disturbance of Earth's magnetosphere that occurs when there is a very efficient exchange of energy from the solar wind into the space environment including Earth’s ionosphere and upper atmosphere. These storms result from variations in the solar wind that produce major changes in the currents, plasmas, and fields in Earth’s magnetosphere and ionosphere, as well as significant increases in the density of the upper atmosphere where some satellites are orbiting. The solar wind conditions that are effective for creating geomagnetic storms are sustained periods (for several to many hours) of high-speed solar wind, and most importantly, a southward- directed solar wind magnetic field (opposite the direction of Earth’s field) at the dayside of the magnetosphere. This condition is effective for transferring energy from the solar wind into Earth’s magnetosphere (NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center, additional information available here).

Interestingly, coronal mass ejections, like the one associated with the recent geomagnetic storm, typically release more than 10^24 Joules of energy. By comparison, the high- frequency (HF) transmitter at HAARP is only a ~3 megawatt (MW) transmitter; it would take HAARP over 10 billion years to produce enough energy to affect this naturally occurring phenomenon (like throwing a pebble into an ocean that is raging due to a hurricane).


Q2. Did HAARP conduct a research campaign during the same time as the geomagnetic

Yes, while HAARP conducted a research campaign May 8-10, 2024, our scientific experiments were in no way linked to the solar storm or high auroral activity seen around the globe. The May campaign was scheduled on March 16, 2024, about a month and a half before the geomagnetic storm. The timing was purely coincidental; geomagnetic storms are unpredictable, with lead times before a solar event measured in minutes, not months. The sun constantly sheds solar material into space – both in a steady flow known as the “solar wind,” and in shorter, more energetic bursts from solar eruptions. The impacts of these magnetic storms can range from mild to extreme, but in a world increasingly dependent on technology, their effects are growing ever more disruptive. Thankfully, researchers are exploring ways to increase the amount of lead time before a solar storm reaches Earth. To promote citizen science collaborations with the May  campaign (as with all UAF HAARP campaigns), a transmission notice and media image were released on May 2, 2024 (see The May campaign supported research proposals studying mechanisms for the detection of orbiting space debris. More information on HAARP is available here.

Q3: Why is ionosphere research important to the world?

NASA has an outstanding webpage linked here that provides both visual and textual descriptions of the ionosphere, and its importance. In addition:

• Extreme space weather can impact modern technology and daily life here on Earth. This includes interference with GPS satellites, electronics on spacecraft and radio communications, particularly in the polar region.
• Severe space weather can also interfere with power grids, induce corrosion-causing electrical currents in oil and gas pipelines and pose health risks for astronauts.
• Space weather is difficult to study because many complicated interactions take place. The sun, the solar wind, Earth’s magnetic field, and Earth’s atmosphere all interact with one another in extremely intricate ways.
• Research conducted at HAARP helps fill in gaps in our knowledge of near-Earth space. This allows scientists to make better space weather predictions, which can help mitigate the effects of severe space weather.
• New research at HAARP may also improve systems to help satellites avoid collisions and advance remote sensing technologies for near-Earth asteroid detection.