Extreme geoelectric fields induced by magnetic storm sudden impulses

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Tuesday, 6 January 2015: 2:45 PM
227A-C (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Jeffrey J. Love, USGS, Denver, CO; and E. J. Rigler and A. Swidinsky

Large magnetic storms, as quantified by the Dst index, can produce geoelectric fields that are hazardous for the operation of electric power grids. The great storm of March 1989, for example, had the highest –Dst value of the 20th century. During the main phase of this storm, rapid magnetic variation induced geoelectric fields in the Earth's lithosphere that caused the complete collapse of the Canadian Hydro-Québec electric-power grid. In this study, we focus specifically on how sudden impulses in geomagnetic activity, those that occur during large storms, can induce geoelectric fields. These impulses can be seen during storm main phases, but they are most usually recognized as storm sudden commencements corresponding to the arrival, at Earth, of coronal mass ejections. We use a newly developed algorithm for estimating induced geoelectric fields from magnetic field variation recorded at ground-based observatories. We train the algorithm on 1-sec geomagnetic and geoelectric field data collected at Japanese observatories during the October 2003 Halloween storm. We then postdict geoelectric fields that would have been realized (but not directly measured at 1-sec resolution) in Japan during the 1989 Québec storm and during another intense storm that occurred in March 1991. The later storm is noteworthy, not because of its intense main phase, but because it commenced with a sudden impulse of enormous magnitude. For the first half minute of the 1991 storm, induced geoelectric fields far exceeded those realized during the 1989 storm. Recognizing the potential hazard, we also analyze a scenario geomagnetic time series of an extreme event sudden commencement, and we calculate the geoelectric fields that this scenario event might plausibly induce. Results show that substantial geoelectric field induction, possibly hazardous for electric power grids, can occur briefly but very abruptly as soon as a magnetic storm commences.