Where to see the Northern Lights this holiday season


Days after parts of the world were impacted by the most significant solar flare in six years, NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center now warns the Earth could be in store for more geomagnetic impacts, which includes a display of the Northern Lights.

The agency has issued a Geomagnetic Storm Watch for increased solar activity through at least Sunday, December 17.

Experts have observed multiple coronal mass ejections from the Sun, which have sent particles of plasma hurling toward Earth.

“Multiple CMEs from 14 and 15 Dec are likely to cause G1-G2 (Minor-Moderate) geomagnetic storm conditions on 16-17 Dec.,” NOAA said during a Friday update.

Early indications from the agency indicate the event could reach the value of a 6 on the Kp index scale, which ranges from 0 to 9.

Previous events of this magnitude have caused dancing colors of green, red and even purple to be visible from Seattle to Minneapolis and Buffalo, New York.

Clouds and light pollution are known to interfere with viewing and can reduce the scope of where the auroras are visible from.

If the event is underestimated, communities further south might have a chance of seeing the northern lights. A more significant solar event would make the light show visible in cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay and Des Moines, Iowa.

Northern lights (Aurora borealis) in the sky - Tromso, Norway
Previous geomagnetic activity of this magnitude has led to the northern lights being visible from Minneapolis to Buffalo. Getty Images

Aside from producing auroras, the geomagnetic storm has the potential of impacting power grids, spacecraft and communication equipment.

NOAA said electric transformer damage is possible, and radio signals might be susceptible to fade during a long-duration event.

At last report, the event was expected to reach a level of G2 on NOAA’s 5-point scale of geomagnetic activity.

Green aurora borealis at Jokulsarlon bay in midnight sky, Tromso, Norway.
The geomagnetic storm could interfere with power grids and communication equipment. Getty Images

An event that reaches G2 is considered to be moderate, but if a level G3 is reached, the activity would be considered to be strong and have broader impacts.

Solar activity, including coronal mass ejections and solar flares have been on an uptick as what is known as Solar Cycle 25 reaches its expected peak in 2024.

A solar cycle is a sequence the Sun’s magnetic field goes through every 11 years, where the field flips. Solar Cycle 25 began in 2019 and could last until 2030, if predictions are accurate.

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