What the Flare?

 · 
May 24, 2024
 · 
2 min read
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This week, I wanted to discuss the KP index and its impact on our daily land surveying activities.

What is the KP index?

This is a question I often hear from our younger field surveyors, yet understanding the KP index is crucial for effectively using our GPS equipment.

So, what is the KP index? The KP index measures geomagnetic activity on Earth, providing invaluable insights into the fluctuations of our planet's magnetic field caused by solar activity. At the heart of the KP index lies the Sun-Earth connection. When the Sun experiences heightened activity, such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs), it unleashes a stream of charged particles into space. These particles, known as the solar wind, interact with Earth's magnetic field, leading to geomagnetic disturbances.

Ranging from 0 to 9, the KP index reflects the severity of geomagnetic storms, which can have significant implications for land surveying activities. See the designation of each range below:

  • KP0-KP1: Quiet to unsettled conditions.
  • KP2-KP3: Active conditions, with possible minor impacts on power systems and satellite operations.
  • KP4-KP6: A moderate to strong geomagnetic storm, potentially causing disruptions to power grids, satellite communication, and navigation systems.
  • KP7-KP9: Severe geomagnetic storms capable of causing widespread disruptions to power infrastructure, satellite operations, and even auroras visible at low latitudes.

Do you recall the auroras that have been seen around the world lately? Well, on May 10th, 2024, the KP index hit one of the most severe geomagnetic storms in decades.  It was a bad time to be doing GPS data collection...

Luckily the storm did not hit until after 3pm that Friday afternoon, and our crews were either already home with family or out at their local watering hole. The results were some beautiful night lights for the lucky ones who got to witness them.

To mitigate the impact of geomagnetic storms on land surveying operations, surveyors must stay informed about KP index forecasts and space weather alerts to anticipate potential disruptions and plan surveying activities accordingly. Start your journey to better understanding here www.swpc.noaa.gov

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