Northern Lights? Solar Storm Coming Our Way with Geomagnetic Storm Category G3 Predicted

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Solar storms can result in beautiful Aurora Borealis views, but they can also disrupt power grids and communication systems.

The Space Weather Prediction Center has issued a Geomagnetic Storm Watch and Warnings for the northern hemisphere. The sun recently displayed two coronal mass ejections or CMEs — both linked to solar flares. The second solar flare was a X1.6 class, which is in the most intense category.

Solar storms can knock out power, interfere with GPS and radio communications — including those on commercial airliners — and they can damage satellites. The alerts are directed north of the latitude of Chicagoland, which is about 41 degrees. The watch focuses north of 50 degrees, and the one of the warning focuses north of 65 degrees.

Duluth, Minnesota and Quebec area at 46 degrees latitude. Southern areas of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan are about 50 degrees latitude.

Hopefully, we don’t experience problems from the solar storm, but we might see a spectacular northern lights display or Aurora Borealis as the solar storm energizes the night atmosphere. The NOAA’s Space Weather station has a graphic, which shows auroral activity. At 4:28 p.m. the graphic shows a likelihood that areas of Chicagoland will see northern lights tonight (weather permitting). If you look at the 4:28 p.m. graphic (2014 Sep 12 2128 UT, above), you can see an intense red area to the right of the north pole. This red area is moving clockwise around the north pole. At midnight, Chicagoland is likely to be under this red area, which indicates a good likelihood of Auroral activity. The further south that the red area penetrates lower latitudes, the more likely Chicagoland will experience an Aurora Borealis event — northern lights. The 4:28 p.m. CDT graphic today looks more intense than the graphic below, which brought northern lights to Arlington Heights on May 15, 2005.

The ability to see the Aurora display depends on the night sky clearing overnight. The National Weather Service Chicago office predicts gradual clearing starting about 9:00 p.m. Friday night with cloudiness diminished to about 50 percent cloud cover by 4:00 a.m. CDT.

Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) display over the northeast sky
in Arlington Heights as it looked at about 0300-0400 CDT
on May 15 2005.

Shortly after the picture (above) was taken, the Space Environment Center
was publishing this graphic (below) of Auroral Activity for the northern hemisphere.

Pattern for Auroral activity at 4:32 AM CDT
from the NOAA Space Environment Center.

You can check the current Auroral Oval activity here …

An X1.6 class solar flare flashes in the middle of the sun on Sept. 10, 2014. These images were captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. It first shows the flare in the 171 Angstrom wavelength, which is typically colorized in gold. It then zooms in to show the flare in a blended 171 and 304 Angstrom wavelength. The 304 wavelength is typically colorized in red.

Space Weather Message Code: WATA50
Serial Number: 50
Issue Time: 2014 Sep 11 0459 UTC

WATCH: Geomagnetic Storm Category G3 Predicted
Highest Storm Level Predicted by Day:
Sep 12: G2 (Moderate) Sep 13: G3 (Strong) Sep 14: G1 (Minor)

Comment: Upgrading the Watch for 13-14 Sep due to anticipated effects from the CME associated with yesterdays R3 (Strong) event.
Potential Impacts: Area of impact primarily poleward of 50 degrees Geomagnetic Latitude.
Induced Currents – Power system voltage irregularities possible, false alarms may be triggered on some protection devices.
Spacecraft – Systems may experience surface charging; increased drag on low Earth-orbit satellites and orientation problems may occur.
Navigation – Intermittent satellite navigation (GPS) problems, including loss-of-lock and increased range error may occur.
Radio – HF (high frequency) radio may be intermittent.
Aurora – Aurora may be seen as low as Pennsylvania to Iowa to Oregon.

Space Weather Message Code: WARK04
Serial Number: 2313
Issue Time: 2014 Sep 11 2317 UTC

WARNING: Geomagnetic K-index of 4 expected
Valid From: 2014 Sep 11 2330 UTC
Valid To: 2014 Sep 12 2300 UTC
Warning Condition: Onset
Potential Impacts: Area of impact primarily poleward of 65 degrees Geomagnetic Latitude.
Induced Currents – Weak power grid fluctuations can occur.
Aurora – Aurora may be visible at high latitudes such as Canada and Alaska.

Space Weather Message Code: WARPX1
Serial Number: 434
Issue Time: 2014 Sep 11 2055 UTC

EXTENDED WARNING: Proton 10MeV Integral Flux above 10pfu expected
Extension to Serial Number: 433
Valid From: 2014 Sep 10 2115 UTC
Now Valid Until: 2014 Sep 12 2300 UTC
Warning Condition: Persistence
Predicted NOAA Scale: S1 – Minor
Potential Impacts: Radio – Minor impacts on polar HF (high frequency) radio propagation resulting in fades at lower frequencies.

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