Greg Glenn: Astrophysics and Baseball

I was at the Dodger game Saturday when the power went out….completely.  It was the 12th inning, with the score tied at 4-4 (Dodger Vs Padres).  This was a serious matter!

I thought I was joking when I told my friends “It’s probably caused by massive ground currents from a CME (coronal mass ejection)”.  Lo and behold, when I woke up Sunday morning, I discovered that a surprisingly significant stream of energy from an earthbound solar filament hit the ionosphere at the same time as the outage.

The following chart shows measurements of the Earth’s geomagnetic field in the time period when the power outage occurred:


UTC is 7 hours ahead of PST, so the power outage at Dodger Stadium, which occurred in Los Angeles at 9:44 p.m., shows up on the chart on August 26th at 04:44 a.m.  That appears to be exactly when the KP Index from NOAA hit Kp = 7.0, categorized as a “Severe Storm”.

Per the following link:

“Assessing the impact of geomagnetic storms on the electrical power grid involves a number of considerations.  The path for current flow that responds to the varying external currents in the upper atmosphere follows artificial current paths on the ground (the power lines) as well as various natural current paths (e.g. conducting structures below the ground and nearby bodies of water).  Once the natural current paths are accounted for, the net geo-electric field that is imposed on the artificial current paths results in a quasi D.C. (periods of 10 seconds to 10’s (tens) of minutes) current in the power lines.  These geomagnetically induced currents cause the ‘exciting current’ in power transformers to operate out of their designed range, resulting in saturation of the magnetic core material inside the transformer.  Once the core saturates, the transformer no longer provides any back ‘electromotive force’ (a kind of electrical inertia) and the currents and voltages in the windings become abnormally large. Depending on the transformer design, this can lead to heating of the surrounding structures due to induced ‘Eddy Currents’ which has the potential to damage parts of the transformer.  An additional impact of transformer saturation is that the voltages and currents no longer have a simple sinusoidal (60 cycle) form and this can cause protective equipment elsewhere in the grid to trip when it shouldn’t.  These equipment ‘trips’ can take needed equipment off line and cause voltage stability problems.  An additional issue for the system is that all of the transformers that are saturating show up as a significant inductive load on the grid as a whole.  This means that a system that is near peak levels of demand prior to the geomagnetic storm event may not be able to meet the total power demand when the geomagnetic storm occurs, leading to partial or system wide blackouts.” 

A further investigation found that Lockheed Astrophysicists analyzing the link between solar particle streams and grid disruptions discovered a 25% higher increase in disruptions during and after solar storms > Kp=5.22.

From the following link, slide No. 13: Solar Flare Induced Disturbances in the Electric Grid and their Economic Impact


 Note that in the left hand box, when the Kp Index is > or = 5.22, there is almost immediately a 25% increase in grid related disturbances.  As I mentioned, the surprisingly high stream from the coronal hole hit at Kp 7.0 and the power went out within an hour.

Coincidence?   Perhaps, but I think not.

First, Tamitha Skov, an Aerospace Corp physicist using NASA data, predicted on August 23rd a major solar storm potentially hitting Earth on August 25th  through 26th.


Second, a strong disturbance was also detected in Norway at around the same time as the Dodger game blackout.


“ELECTRICITY FLOWS THROUGH THE SOIL OF NORWAY: When a geomagnetic storm erupts, most eyes naturally turn to the sky, looking for auroras. But during the surprisingly strong G3-class geomagnetic storm of Aug. 26th, there was action underfoot as well. Probes buried in the ground in Norway detected strong currents of electricity moving through the soil. This chart recording made by Rob Stammes at the Polarlightcenter in Lofoten shows wild swings in current during the storm’s peak:


The currents were remarkably strong,” says Stammes, who has been monitoring ground currents outside his Arctic observatory for many years. “During the magnetic storm, voltages surged to 10mv/m or 10v/km. That’s about 10 times stronger than normal. These are pretty rare readings without a strong solar flare during solar minimum.”

Why does electricity flow through the ground during a geomagnetic storm? It’s basic physics. Changing magnetic fields cause currents to flow in wires and other conductors. In most places, soil can conduct electricity due to the presence of dissolved salts and minerals. So when the local magnetic field begins to vibrate, electricity naturally begins to flow. Currents induced by geomagnetic storms can cause voltage fluctuations in power systems and in rare cases complete blackouts.”

Anyway, the Dodgers got their mojo on just after the lights came back on and completed a freaky run by Justin Turner, winning the rather lengthy game by 5-4.

Dodger Win Against Padres on 8-25-18

Whether or not the local utility gets their mojo on and retrofits their circuits to better withstand ground currents remains to be seen.




via Tallbloke’s Talkshop

September 2, 2018 at 05:41AM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: