Geomagnetic Storm Watch: Will it affect Nebraska?

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – The Space Weather Prediction Center has issued a “Geomagnetic Storm Watch” for this weekend in response to a “coronal mass ejection” event. The event occurred Thursday around 10:35 AM CDT and here’s what it looked like:

Coronal Mass Ejection - 10/28/2021

Courtesy: Space Weather Prediction Center, NASA, European Space Agency

These “coronal mass ejections” expel material away from the Sun and enhance a stream of highly energized particles moving away from the Sun. When this “stream” directs itself towards Earth, it can cause a “geomagnetic storm.”

Fortunately, Earth’s magnetic field helps protect us from such events. However, this does not stop these particles from getting into Earth’s atmosphere.

These geomagnetic storms can cause communications issues, power disruptions, and aurora lights displays. This is especially true in polar regions, but some effects can occur at lower latitudes for stronger geomagnetic storms.

The Space Weather Prediction Center uses a 1 to 5 scale when describing the strength of geomagnetic storms. The geomagnetic storm forecast for Saturday is a 3 on the 1 to 5 scale as of Friday morning.

The strength of this geomagnetic storm limits most impacts to areas north of the United States. However, the Space Weather Prediction Center notes that the aurora lights “…may be visible as low as Pennsylvania to Iowa to Oregon.” Nebraska is within this stretch.

Keep in mind that it will likely be difficult to see the aurora lights if visible. Atmospheric haze, cloud cover, light pollution from urban pockets, and the strength of the aurora display itself can make viewing difficult. Many times, these aurora displays are not visible to the naked eye. And that is if they’re able to develop in the first place.

While there is a chance to see the aurora lights in Nebraska, many hopeful observers may find themselves disappointed. That said, keep a close eye on the sky Friday night and this weekend!

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