Massive St. Patrick’s Day Solar Storm Sets Off Green Northern Lights

Auroral lights turn the sky over Whistler in British Columbia green early on St. Patrick's Day, in an image captured by photographer David McColm.
Auroral lights turn the sky over Whistler in British Columbia green early on St. Patrick’s Day, in an image captured by photographer David McColm.

A massive solar storm is bombarding Earth now, and it could supercharge the northern lights to offer a better chance of seeing dancing green auroras just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, weather permitting.

The surprisingly strong solar storm — ranked as a G4 geomagnetic storm by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center — could trigger brilliant auroras for people in dark areas as far south as Tennessee on Tuesday night if the space storm continues. The storm began at about 10 a.m. ET today.

The storm was given a “severe” rating of G4 on NOAA’s 1-to-5 scale for geomagnetic effects. It’s not a danger to satellites or astronauts in space, but it could affect GPS and radio signals on Earth, space weather scientists said during a teleconference. The solar storm has not been linked to any power outages on the planet, they added.

“This is one of two severe geomagnetic storms that we have experienced during this current solar cycle,” said Thomas Berger, director of the Space Weather Prediction Center.

The G4 storm is the result of two large eruptions that left the sun on Sunday. Two huge explosions of solar plasma, known as coronal mass ejections, joined up while speeding toward Earth to create a larger solar storm. The active region on the sun that spawned the eruptions is currently rotating out of Earth’s view.

NOAA officials expect that the solar storm should continue for at least the next several hours, but these types of storms are difficult to predict.

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SOURCE: NBC News

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