Northern Lights May Be Seen As Far South As CA This Month: Here’s Why

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Holes in Earth’s magnetic field could cause more frequent aurora borealis, or northern lights, displays throughout the month, and they could even be seen as far south as California, where the ethereal displays are uncommon, but not unheard of.

Space weather forecasters expect March to be the best month in two decades to see the curtains of mostly green but also pink, purple and red that normally are confined to areas around Earth’s North Pole.

When conditions are right, the phenomenon can be seen as far south as Florida and Arizona, Business Insider reports. In April of last year, it was photographed over Mt. Shasta in Northern California.

There are a couple of reasons March could be an opportunity for more Americans to see the northern lights.

One is that solar activity, which plays a crucial role in the appearance of northern lights, ramps up around the time of the seasonal equinoxes (the vernal, or spring, equinox is on Tuesday, March 19). Historically, March has seen more auroras than any other month, although October, the first full month after the autumnal, or fall, equinox, is a close second, according to a NASA study of 75 years worth of data.

April and September were the third- and fourth-busiest months for auroras.

The biggest aurora event of 2023 occurred last March, when a series of solar activities triggered auroras powerful enough to be seen in places along the country’s southern border.

Geomagnetic storms on our star’s surface cause coronal holes that spew out electronically charged particles carried millions of miles by solar wind into Earth’s magnetic field. Around the time of the equinoxes, the sun and Earth’s poles are aligned almost perpendicularly, which allows more of the wind to make it through.

Secondly, the “solar maximum” peak of an 11-year solar cycle in which the sun’s magnetic fields flip between the North and South poles is expected to occur this year. Like Earth, the sun has negative and positive polarity. During the reversal of polarity, negative becomes positive and positive becomes negative, and that creates more sunspots and space weather events.

The frequency of CMEs, which are huge bubbles of coronal plasma threaded by magnetic field lines, varies during each solar cycle — about once a week at solar minimum, but an average of two or three a day at solar maximum.

The current cycle, known as Solar Cycle 25, is expected to reach solar maximum in 2024, a year ahead of schedule, according to the Space Weather Prediction Center, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

People who live in places like Alaska, Canada and Greenland, which are near Earth’s North Pole, have the best chances of seeing the ethereal auroras. But the powerful eruptions have made the northern lights more common over the past several months, sending the northern lights far south into states like Florida, Texas and Arizona.

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