A strong geomagnetic storm is now classified as “possible”, get ready for the northern lights
Three blasts of energy from the Sun will likely go straight toward Earth. Space weather forecasters believe this geomagnetic storm will create the northern lights.
NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) detected the first coronal mass ejection (CME) on Monday. CME is the energy released from the Sun when sunspots erupt. The first coronal ejection jet moves toward Earth but is expected to miss Earth’s atmosphere.
Then on the same day, November 27, two additional coronal ejections burst from the Sun’s surface and are heading toward Earth.
Finally, on November 28, an extremely powerful coronal mass erupted from the surface of the Sun, heading straight toward Earth. Space weather forecasters at NOAA now say that the final powerful CME will catch up and merge with the second and third CMEs.
We won’t just have a mass of coronal ejection reaching our atmosphere. We will have three CMEs merging into one large geomagnetic storm.
Forecasters expect solar storm energy to arrive on December 1 at or after midnight. That’s when Michigan and more of the northern third of the United States can see the northern lights.
The force of solar energy striking Earth’s atmosphere will determine how far south the northern lights are visible. The strength of a solar burst is measured in the Kp index. The forecast below shows that the Kp index is expected to peak at seven between 1am and 4am on Friday. Meteorologists also give that time period a 55% chance of a “extremely intense” geomagnetic storm.
A Kp of seven could cause the northern lights to appear in nearly the northern half of lower Michigan, from Bay City to Muskegon north. The northern lights can be visible in the southern half of Michigan, but remember that you must be in a very dark place.
In fact, a Kp of seven is so strong that people in Indiana and Ohio can see the northern lights.
Unfortunately, these projections are made using only one data point at present, which is the estimated time, direction and speed of the CME as it leaves the Sun’s surface. We only get another good update when the energy is about one hour away from colliding with Earth’s atmosphere. In other words, we won’t get a new forecast using new data until late Thursday evening.
We also have to hope for clear skies here in Michigan late Thursday evening and early Friday morning. This certainly seems possible as the approaching storm probably won’t send clouds our way until between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. on Friday. Tomorrow I’ll give you a more complete look at the cloud forecast here.
also: There is some red on the temperature maps ahead for Michigan, and the warmup has legs