Severe geomagnetic storm could create Northern Lights displays in southern US on Sunday, Monday

Sun solar flare particles. Getty Images

A severe geomagnetic storm is underway after eruptions from the Sun sent plasma blasting toward Earth, with the potential to produce Northern Lights as far south as Alabama and Northern California heading into Monday. 

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) issued a Geomagnetic Storm Alert on Sunday after Sun-observing satellites recorded an X 1.1 solar flare and later a coronal hole high-speed stream, or CH HSS.

Auroras occur when charged particles from the Sun interact with the Earth’s atmosphere, creating what are known as the Northern and Southern Lights.

On its five-point scale of geomagnetic storms, space experts believed the first wave of energy could rank as either a G1 or G2 but increase on Monday to a G3. However, within the past 24 hours, severe G4 space weather conditions were observed and are predicted to continue, according to the SWPC dashboard.

A geomagnetic storm of a G1 rating is the weakest and commonly leads to displays of Northern Lights over Alaska and Canada. A G3 rating would possibly allow an aurora to be seen as far south as Washington, Wisconsin and New York if skies are clear. With G4 (level 4 out of 5) conditions observed and predicted through Monday, displays of Northern Lights could be visible as far south as Alabama and northern California


The amount of geomagnetic activity is also monitored by ground-based magnetometers, and the event is measured on the Kp index scale, which ranges from 0 to 9.

A G3 event with a high Kp-index value caused the Northern Lights to be spotted as far south as Las Vegas in December. Space experts believe the upcoming event could reach a Kp-index value of at least 6, which would put cities such as 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 anticipate adverse impacts, and no action is necessary, but they should stay properly informed of storm progression by visiting our webpage," the SWPC said on Sunday. 

The FOX Forecast Center expects there to be plenty of hindrances in the sky on Sunday and Monday nights that could complicate viewing.

A large storm system will be moving through the country’s heartland, producing plenty of snow and thunderstorms.

In addition to the increased cloud cover, March’s full Worm Moon will illuminate the sky, impeding the visibilities of other celestial objects.

A faint lunar eclipse will start shortly before 1 a.m. EDT on Monday and last until about 5:30 a.m. as the Moon passes through Earth’s shadow.


Space experts admit determining the exact strength of geomagnetic activity is challenging, even with more frequent occurrences.

Geomagnetic storms have become more numerous over the last year as the Sun begins to reach the maximum phase of its solar cycle.

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.

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