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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

New York could get a glimpse at the Northern Lights thanks to a geomagnetic storm – but there’s a catch

Materials from the Sun hitting Earth’s atmosphere could create a vivid Northern Lights display for parts of the upper Midwest and northern U.S. early this week.

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center issued a Geomagnetic Storm Watch for Monday through Wednesday after a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) was observed sending plasma toward Earth.

Minor to moderate geomagnetic storming is forecast, according to the SWPC. The storm watch helps inform telecommunication, power and space industry companies of potential impacts from space weather. However, the public won’t be impacted.

Solar wind causes the reactions in Earth’s atmosphere that create the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights.

Intense space weather events can cause Aurora lights to appear farther away from Earth’s poles, which could be the case this week. 

How far away from the poles the lights reach can be determined by the forecaster “Kp” index, which is on a 1-9 scale measuring the geomagnetic storm intensity. 

According to SWPC’s Aurora dashboard, a Kp 6 was forecast for Monday night, offering the best chance to see the Northern Lights across the northern U.S. However, a nor’easter moved into the Northeast late Monday obscuring views for those in the Northeast and part of the Great Lakes regions. 


Northern lights are seen in the night sky near Canyon, Minnesota
Materials from the Sun hitting Earth’s atmosphere could create a vivid Northern Lights display for parts of the upper Midwest and northern U.S. Star Tribune via Getty Images

There are still more chances through Wednesday night to catch a glimpse of the dancing lights – if the clouds go away.

On Tuesday, aurora lights are once again possible in the far northern U.S. However, clouds will once again be heavy across much of the viewing area.

If there is a break in the clouds, cities including Minneapolis and Milwaukee could see the Northern Lights overhead.


fox weather map of aurora viewing and clouds
The weather map displays Aurora viewing and clouds across the northern U.S.

The lights will also appear low on the horizon for Boise, Lincoln and Indianapolis – again, if the clouds cooperate.

CMEs take between one and three days to reach Earth’s atmosphere.

Over the past week, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded 19 CMEs streaming from the Sun. 

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