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Northern Lights likely to shine in northern U.S.; maybe farther south

A strong geomagnetic storm will result in the Northern Lights being visible in parts of the U.S. this week

Aurora Borealis may be visible in the U.S.
Aurora Borealis may be visible in the U.S.

ROANOKE, Va. – A geomagnetic storm watch was issued by the Space Weather Prediction Center. According to the SWPC, a geomagnetic storm of this magnitude can result in a “Wide area blackout of HF radio communication, loss of radio contact for about an hour on sunlit side of Earth.”

Geomagnetic storm ratings

This “storm” comes following a massive solar flare in the direction of Earth that occurred on Monday.

Solar flare in sunspot region 2790

The normal stream of charged particles from Sun to Earth is what leads to the typical sighting of the Northern Lights in high latitudes (electrically charged particles from the sun interact with the earth’s atmosphere). When these extra charged streams occur, however, the Aurora can be seen farther south into parts of the United States.

It’s likely that parts of the northern U.S. will see the Aurora between Wednesday night and Thursday evening. Depending on the actual strength of the geomagnetic storm, however, the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks says that the Aurora could be seen low on the horizon “as far south as Carson City, Oklahoma City, and Raleigh.” Under this assumption, that would include our area too.

Aurora visibility through Thursday evening according to the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska - Fairbanks

We’ll keep an eye on this through the next two days and let you know if this becomes more of a possibility. Stay with us for updates!


About the Author:

Meteorologist Chris Michaels is an American Meteorological Society (AMS) Certified Broadcaster, forecasting weather conditions in southwest Virginia on WSLS 10 News from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. weekdays on Virginia Today.