Even though the sun has been in hiding the last couple of days, there is a storm brewing on this flaming ball of gas 93 million miles from earth...and that storm may impact the earth this weekend. Solar flares occur when energy is "ejected" from the sun into space. This is called a coronal mass ejection and it looks like this:
While solar flares are a common occurence, this weekend's will be unusually strong. So strong, in fact, that the Space Weather Prediction Center has issued a Geomagnetic Storm Watch for the earth for Saturday and Sunday. The watch means that the influx of solar radiation may interfere with a variety of systems on earth.
Geomagnetic storms disrupt the normal magnetic fields of the earth. This, in turn, can cause GPS and navigation systems to malfunction, and can also disrupt the electrical power grid.
The effects are more pronounced above the surface of the earth. Problems with GPS navigation systems can cause airline groundings. Military drone operations can also be affected, since the ability to precisely locate and navigate is lost. If you use a GPS for driving or hiking, the locational services may be off by several yards...not a big deal, unless you are trying to launch a missle to a precise location, or land an airliner on a distant runway.
One spectacular result can be a brilliant display of the Aurora Borealis--the Northern Lights:
The Northern Lights may be visible in southern latitudes, including the Tri-State. The lights are caused by the solar radiation exciting ions in the atmosphere, causing them to glow like a neon sign. Skies will be clear on Saturday night, so if you see the green and red glow, you'll know the solar storm is arriving.