Northern lights could be visible over parts of the U.S. due to ‘strong’ solar storms

In a piece of good news space-meteorologists say about the Sun. But perhaps that’s not enough to send the Northern Lights as far south as Philadelphia.

The Atlantic tropics may be calm but the sun is headed for major storms and at least parts of the northern United States will see the northern lights this week.

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center issued a geomagnetic-storm warning Wednesday for vigorous activity, with the Sun expected to remain upbeat for the next few days, said Bill Murtagh, the center’s program director. Have counted more than a dozen so-called coronal mass ejections or CMEs and the storm has barely begun

The northern lights are ignited by the interaction of the aurora borealis CME and Earth’s magnetosphere. This particular eruption is unusual, he said. It just keeps on ejecting these mass ejections.

Sometimes we use the term cannibalism where one CME swallows another because it is moving faster than the previous one. How all this will affect the potential light show is uncertain.

Auroras are common in the polar regions, but particularly strong eruptions can cause them to collapse in the mid-latitudes. It is unlikely they will appear here this time, said Rob Steinberg, a space scientist and acting chief of the Office of Space Meteorology, which heads the National Weather Service.

Philly may have better shots at seeing these things in the coming months as hurricane activity resumes, he said. He said space-weather forecasting is not the same as monitoring thunderstorms with Doppler radar.

It is not clear when CMEs will approach Earth and how strong they will be or what effects they will have. I remind meteorologists. You guys got the first 10 miles. I got another 93 million, says Murtagh.

NOAA’s DSCOVR satellite and its real-time solar wind instrument are in the case. Wednesday’s activity is ranked as a G for G3 geomagnetic enough to interfere with radio communications and satellite operations on a scale of 1 to 5. Yes, Murtagh said.

The strongest Hurricane G5s can disrupt power supply and communications networks as was the case in March 1989 during a storm that toppled a Canadian transformer and left six million people in the dark for nine hours.

Another G5 storm in October 2003 caused blackouts in Sweden and South Africa. Experts say that more of these eruptions are expected in the coming months.

Sunspot activity is increasing as a result of a strong magnetic disturbance in the interior of the Sun after a prolonged period of quiet. Sunspots are associated with a greater number of magnetic storms.

That means Philly can finally get its shots of seeing the northern lights, Steinberg said. With winter comes long nights, clear skies and an increasing solar cycle followed by a nice cold-front passage.

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