A severe geomagnetic storm could produce northern lights across the United States

US News

A severe geomagnetic storm is underway after explosions from the Sun send a burst of plasma toward Earth, capable of producing northern lights as far south as Alabama and northern California heading into Monday.

Published by NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC). A geomagnetic storm warning on Sunday after the sun-observing satellites recorded X 1.1 solar flares, then a coronal hole high-speed stream, or CH HSS.

Auroras occur when charged particles from the Sun interact with Earth's atmosphere, known as the northern and southern lights.

On the five-point scale of geomagnetic storms, space experts believed the first wave of energy would rank as a G1 or G2 but would increase to a G3 on Monday. However, within the last 24 hours, severe G4 space weather conditions have been observed and are forecast to continue as per the SWPC dashboard.

A G1 rating geomagnetic storm is the weakest and usually leads to displays of the Northern Lights in Alaska and Canada.

A G3 rating allows the aurora to be seen as far south as Washington, Wisconsin and New York if skies are clear.

With G4 (level 4 of 5) conditions observed and forecast through Monday, displays of the Northern Lights will be visible as far south as Alabama and northern California.

The level of geomagnetic activity is monitored by underground magnetometers, and the phenomenon is measured on the Kp index scale, which ranges from 0 to 9.

A G3 event with a high Kp-index value saw northern lights as far south as Las Vegas in December.

Space experts believe the upcoming event could reach a Kp-index value of at least 6, putting cities like Seattle, Minneapolis, Green Bay and Syracuse, New York, in the visibility zone.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute is forecasting high aurora activity with Kp-6 levels through Monday night.

“The public should not expect any adverse impacts and no action is required, but they should be properly informed about the progress of the storm by visiting our webpage,” SWPC said on Sunday.

The FOX Forecast Center expects plenty of obstructions in the skies Sunday and Monday nights, making visibility difficult.

What Kp index value is needed to see the Northern Lights in the US? NOAA

A large storm system will move through the center of the country, producing abundant rain and thunderstorms.

In addition to increasing cloudiness, March's full wormhole lights up the sky, blocking the view of other celestial objects.

A Faint lunar eclipse Monday will begin shortly before 1 a.m. EDT and last until 5:30 a.m. as the moon passes through Earth's shadow.

Astronomers agree that determining the exact strength of geomagnetic activity is challenging, even with frequent occurrences.

The center said satellites detected at least one flare and coronal mass ejection emitted from the sun on Friday.
The center said satellites detected at least one flare and coronal mass ejection from the sun on Friday. NASA via Getty Images

As the Sun begins to reach the maximum phase of its solar cycle, geomagnetic storms have formed in large numbers over the past year.

A solar cycle is a sequence in which the Sun's magnetic field goes through every 11 years, where the field flips. Solar Cycle 25 started in 2019 and will last until 2030.


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