Aircraft divert in wake of large solar storm

A coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth’s magnetic field on at around 1500 UTC on 24 January.
The UK Institute of Navigation reports that the ensuing geomagnetic storm resulted in spectacular aurora displays that were visible even down to the latitudes of northern England.
The solar flare was rated as an M9-class eruption – just below an ‘X-class’ flare, the most powerful type of solar storm. It was the strongest solar storm to hit Earth since October 2003.
As a rare precaution, some high latitude flights were re-routed to avoid comms problems and exposing passengers and crew to excessive radiation.
Delta Air Lines confirmed it had altered routes on Tuesday for a “handful” of flights between the United States and Asia to avoid problems caused by the radiation storm, and that the decision to fly polar routes further south than normal was adding about 15 minutes to journey times.
“We are undergoing a series of solar bursts in the sky that are impacting the northern side of the world,” said Delta.
US flights also affected by the strong solar radiation storm included several between Midwestern cities like Detroit and Asian hubs.
Both Qantas and Air Canada confirmed Wednesday that they too had altered several flight paths.
The UK institute said there could be some continuing disruption to the likes of GPS and magnetic compasses. The K-index – a code related to the maximum fluctuations of horizontal components of the Earth’s magnetic field – rose above 4; 5 or greater indicate storm-level geomagnetic activity.
NASA predicts that the storm’s radiation will likely continue through Wednesday and may disrupt satellite communications in the polar regions prompting more rerouting.

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