First Alert Weather In-Depth: CME v. solar flare

Weather In-Depth: CME vs. solar flare

The News10NBC Team details breaking News, Traffic and Weather.

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Did you wake up Thursday morning without any cell service? News10NBC’s Alex Bielfeld sure did, as it’s been out since he woke up, which was around 3 a.m. So what has caused the issue across the nation?

You may have heard some buzz, as people woke up, of a possible solar flare affecting communication services. But is that true? Before we go into if the solar flare contributed to the outage or not, let’s go into what a solar flare is and how that differs from a C.M.E. or Coronal Mass Ejection.

First off, both CMEs and solar flare are eruptions that occur on the surface of the sun and then can occur together or separate from one another. A solar flare is a flash of light from the sun that releases a mass amount of energy in the form of x-rays and other high end energy wavelengths, and they travel at the speed of light — which means they reach Earth in about eight minutes.

CMEs are bursts of clouds and particle that are released from the surface of the sun. They do not travel as fast a solar flares and can take anywhere from one to three days to reach Earth. A key difference in detecting the differences between solar flares and CMEs is that CMEs are eruptions from the surface of the sun, rather than a burst of light. And CMEs are responsible for the Aurora.

So, why is this topic being brought up now? This is brought up because of the rumblings that people have on if the solar flare caused the downed cell service. A solar flare was recorded at 1:32 a.m. Eastern Standard Time Thursday morning. Shortly after the flare is when communications across the nation began to go down for some cell providers. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

The only problem is the solar flare occurred at night, and our side of the world was not facing the sun at that time. The solar flare could have affected the satellites in which carry certain cell providers and those could have been facing the sun at the time — although the surface wasn’t affected.

Some food for thought and the coincidental timing of it all can not be ignored as a possible reason. But we will not be sure until an official statement comes out.