'Severe' geomagnetic storm conditions impact Earth, NOAA says: What to know

(NEXSTAR) – A large geomagnetic storm is impacting Earth, NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) said Sunday afternoon. However, the United States may not see the aurora borealis typically associated with such celestial events.

Saturday, the SWPC issued Geomagnetic storm watches Until Monday, when a coronal mass ejection was on its way to impact Earth. At the time, the agency said geomagnetic storms could reach “moderate” G2 and “strong” G3 strength.

However, the SWPC warned on Sunday that the storm had reached “severe” G4 conditions.

Here's what we know:

What is a coronal mass ejection?

A coronal mass ejection, or CME, is an explosion of plasma and magnetic material from the Sun that can reach Earth in as little as 15 to 18 hours, NOAA He explains. according to NASAA coronal ejection can create currents in Earth's magnetic fields that send particles to the north and south poles. When these particles react with oxygen and nitrogen, they can create the northern lights.

“It's basically the sun shooting a magnet into space,” Bill Murtagh, SWPC program coordinator and veteran space weather forecaster, previously told Nexstar. “This magnet affects the Earth's magnetic field and we get this big interaction.”

This interaction is known as a geomagnetic storm, the strength of which will affect how far south the northern lights can be seen.

How are geomagnetic storms measured?

SWPC uses a 5-point scale To measure the strength of geomagnetic storms, just as forecasters use hurricane and hurricane gauges.

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The geomagnetic storm scale ranges from G1 to G5. At the lower end are G1, which are described as minor storms that can produce auroras in the Upper Peninsula of Maine and Michigan. A G5 storm, described as severe, could send the northern lights as far south as Florida and southern Texas.

Geomagnetic storms can also affect navigation, communications, and radio signals. When significant solar activity is seen, the SWPC issues an alert, says Dr. Delores Knipp, research professor at… Ann and H.J. Smid Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, he previously told Nexstar. This warns those who use high-frequency radios (such as emergency managers), airlines, and those responsible for our electrical grid of potential impacts to our communications, GPS, and electricity systems.

A G1 storm could have minor impacts on the power grid, satellite operations, and migratory animals. A much larger storm could knock out satellites, communications and power grids.

How dangerous is this storm?

SWPC reports that a geomagnetic intrusion reaching G4 conditions has been reported and is expected to continue through Monday.

The G4 storm observed Sunday is considered “severe,” SWPC notes, saying a storm of this caliber represents a “major disturbance to the Earth's magnetic field.” Their intensity often varies between low levels and extreme storm conditions over the course of the event. As alarming as it may sound, the agency advises otherwise.

“The public should not anticipate negative impacts and no action is required, but should remain properly informed of the development of the storm by visiting our webpage,” SWPC he said in an update SundayAdding that “infrastructure operators have been notified to take the necessary measures to mitigate any potential impacts.”

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Officials also noted that there may be increased and recurring voltage control problems that “usually can be mitigated.” Increased chance of “anomalies or impacts on satellite operations”; and “the potential for longer and longer periods of GPS degradation.”

Will we see the northern lights?

Unfortunately for the United States, the strong activity observed Sunday afternoon occurs during daylight hours. Current SWPC forecast models show that those in northern Europe and Asia may see some auroras, but they may not persist over the United States.

“You could miss the best conditions in the United States because it's still daytime,” said Chief Meteorologist Eric Snittel. WROC said at Nexstar. However, if the geomagnetic storm remains strong into the night, viewing chances may improve.

A G4 storm usually means that residents of states as far south as Alabama and Northern California can see the northern lights.

“The bottom line is, now it's a wait-and-see game we're going to play. People on the other side of the planet are in for a real treat over the next few hours. Time will tell if this show has enough gas in the tank to keep going after dark locally,” he added.

As of 2:30 PM EST, SWPC forecasts are shown Residents of the northern United States can still catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis on Sunday and Monday nights. The latest forecast may change by Monday morning.

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If you can't see the northern lights on Sunday, fear not — we'll likely have another chance soon.

According to NOAA, so are we Approaching climax Of the 25th solar cycle, it is an 11-year period during which its north and south poles flip. During this time, several space weather events can occur that can bring us geomagnetic storms – and the northern lights – to Earth.

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