Where to see the Northern Lights this holiday season
Days after parts of the world were affected by the most significant solar flare in six years, NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center is now warning that Earth may be in store for more geomagnetic effects, which include 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 observed multiple coronal mass ejections from the Sun, pushing plasma particles toward Earth.
“Several coronal emissions from December 14-15 will likely cause G1-G2 (moderate to moderate) geomagnetic storm conditions on December 16-17,” NOAA said during an update on Friday.
Early indications from the agency suggest that the event could reach a value of 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 from Seattle to Minneapolis and Buffalo, New York.
Clouds and light pollution are known to interfere with visibility and can reduce the viewing range of the aurora borealis.
If the event is underestimated, communities further south may have a chance to see 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.
Aside from producing aurora borealis, a geomagnetic storm has the potential to affect power grids, spacecraft and communications equipment.
Damage to electrical transformers is possible, and radio signals may be susceptible to fading during a long-duration event, NOAA said.
In the last report, the event was expected to reach the G2 level on NOAA’s 5-point scale of geomagnetic activity.
An event that reaches level G2 is considered moderate, but if level G3 is reached, the activity is considered strong and has broader impacts.
Solar activity, including coronal mass ejections and solar flares, has been on a slight increase as solar cycle 25 reaches its peak expected in 2024.
The solar cycle is a sequence that the Sun’s magnetic field goes through every 11 years, during which the field reverses. Solar cycle 25 began in 2019 and could continue until 2030, if predictions are accurate.