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Powerful solar storm was also detected in Canada’s deep ocean water, research shows

Click to play video: 'Canada’s solar storm was detected in deep water'
Canada’s solar storm was detected in deep water
The recent solar storm that allowed for many Canadians to see the Northern Lights was also detected in deep ocean waters. Kate Moran from Ocean Networks Canada joins Sonia Sunger to talk about what happened – May 20, 2024

The powerful solar storm that created the stunning Northern Lights across Canada also had an impact deep in the province’s oceans.

Ocean Networks Canada operates a wide range of sensors to measure everything possible in the ocean, including acoustics.

Kate Moran, CEO of Ocean Networks Canada, told Global News that researchers noticed the solar storm triggered the movement of compasses placed deep into the ocean. The devices recorded the temporary distortion of the Earth’s magnetic field.

She said these are potentially some of the most remote recordings ever captured.

“It’s really just a new way of understanding the Earth,” Moran said.

“I mean, we had no idea that we would be seeing the impact of an alteration of Earth’s magnetic field deep in the ocean. And so really, it’s information that can help scientists who study Earth’s magnetic field and the impacts from solar storms, and using these data to understand that it actually reaches much of our planet, including the ocean.”

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Click to play video: 'Northern lights dazzle across B.C. skies'
Northern lights dazzle across B.C. skies

According to Ocean Networks Canada, the most significant magnetic shift was detected at the Folger Passage subsea site, at a depth of 25 metres off the coast of Vancouver Island.

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The shift moved the direction of the compass within a range of +30 to -30 degrees.

Moran said geomagnetic disturbances can pose a risk to power grids, satellite networks and even animals’ navigational abilities, but more data is needed.

“It’s not really been substantiated, but that’s another thing,” she said.

“We monitor all of these kinds of events so we could be able to be monitoring those changes as well.”

As solar storms become more frequent over the next few years, Moran said they can expect to learn more about our world and our oceans.

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“We are always surprised about what we learn from the ocean,” she said.

“We monitor 24/7 in real-time, so we’re always finding new things. And this is just one of them.”

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