Huge solar storm: Northern lights possible in California, sunspot visible with glasses

profile photo
By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A strong solar storm headed toward Earth could produce northern lights in the southern United States and potentially disrupt communications this weekend.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a rare geomagnetic storm watch — the first in nearly 20 years. That was expected to be elevated to a warning Friday night, when the effects of the solar outburst were due to reach Earth.

The storm’s severity is currently categorized as G4, the second strongest. During a call with reporters Friday, Shawn Dahl of NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center said that the agency can’t rule out a “low-end” G5 event.

NOAA has alerted operators of power plants and spacecraft in orbit to take precautions.

“As far as the worst situation expected here at Earth, that’s tough to say and I wouldn’t want to speculate on that,” Dahl said. “However, ‘severe’ level is pretty extraordinary, it’s a very rare event to happen.”

NOAA said the sun produced strong solar flares beginning Wednesday, resulting in five outbursts of plasma capable of disrupting satellites in orbit and power grids here on Earth. Each eruption — known as a coronal mass ejection — can contain billions of tons of solar plasma.

NOAA said the flares seem to be associated with a sunspot that’s 124,000 miles across — 16 times the diameter of Earth.

People who’ve saved their solar eclipse glasses will be able to see that sunspot without magnification, in the sun’s lower right quadrant.

The storm could produce aurora borealis — northern lights — as far south in the U.S. as Alabama and Northern California, according to NOAA.

An extreme geomagnetic storm in 2003 took out power in Sweden and damaged power transformers in South Africa.

author photo
About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.