„It’s all about the strength of the solar storm. The stronger the storm, the farther south the auroras are seen,” Samuhel said.
At the intensity of a G-3 storm, there’s the possibility that the northern lights could reach places in the U.S. from Boston to Chicago to Seattle, although seeing the aurora from in the cities themselves will not be possible due to light pollution.
„If the storm gets this strong, it is possible to see the northern lights as far south as northern Pennsylvania, Iowa and Washington, but it will look more like a faint glow on the horizon, not swirling bands of light overhead like what people think of when they think about the aurora,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Brian Lada said.
However, cloud cover and light pollution may prevent some of these areas from seeing them.
„I’d say light pollution affects [visibility of the northern lights] much more than meteor showers,” Samuhel said. „It is usually so dim when it’s visible this far south that you have to be in a pitch-black area to see it, even then it could still be too dim.”
He added that people viewing the dimmer lights are sometimes able to get better pictures by using long exposures so the lights show up.
Minnesota and Wisconsin look to be among some of the places with the least amount of cloud coverage, according to Samuhel, though northern New England and the Northwest will have poor conditions for viewing the aurora.
However, Samuhel warns that the storm may not play through.
„The prediction of these solar storms is very tough, harder than forecasting the weather,” Samuhel said. „Many times events that are hyped like this one don’t pan out.”
The strength of these solar storms that allow for the auroras to reach farther south depends on the intensity of the flares and CMEs. The stronger the event, the stronger the storm. In turn, the stronger the storm, the farther the reach of the northern lights — and the more serious the potential impacts.
|The aurora borealis, or northern lights, are seen over the Norwegian town of Harstad, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015.(AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)|
These stronger flares typically occur during a „solar maximum,” or the part of the 11-year solar cycle that consists of a period of high solar activity in the form of more numerous sunspots and a correlating higher number of CMEs. The solar minimum refers to the period of time within this 11-year cycle with low solar activity. The sun is currently transitioning from a solar minimum to the next solar maximum, which is forecast to reach its climax in the first half of the 2020s.
Auroras are more likely to occur during the solar maximum, but they can still happen during a solar minimum, according to Samuhel. However, an aurora showing up unusually far south would require a strong flare, which there’s not much of a chance for except during a solar maximum.
While solar storms are ranked on a scale of G-1 through G-5, solar flares are ranked on a five-tier scale with A-class flares as the smallest, followed by B, C, M and X-class flares. Nearly every tier then has a scale from 1 to 9 following the letter, though X-class flares have no upper limit.
Monday saw a C7.4-class solar flare — one of the strongest recent flares aimed at Earth, heralding a transition period into a more active part of Solar Cycle 25 that could affect the planet.
„This one could be a sign that the sun is ‘waking up,'” Samhuel said. „The current solar minimum is about to come to an end.”
|A solar flare on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020, sparked a solar storm that could bring an aurora to a portion of the northern U.S. (Solar Dynamics Observatory)|
The last solar maximum stemmed from 2011 into 2015 before the sun nearly went dormant.
But on Nov. 29, 2020, an M-class solar flare produced a large CME, though directed away from the Earth.
The direction of the solar flares play a key role in their impacts alongside their strength, even during the transitional periods. While the M4.4 passed by harmlessly, the combination of a strong flare in the direction of the Earth could result in a technological catastrophe.
The flare’s G-3 solar storm carries with it the potential for low impacts on power systems, spacecraft operations and satellite navigation, according to NOAA. But with stronger storms come the potential for more serious impacts.
On Sept. 10, 2017, during the solar maximum’s last gasp, the sun spawned an X8.3 solar flare — one of the strongest flares ever measured, according to Samuhel. It was aimed away from the planet.
„It would have led to planet-wide blackouts and a lot of satellites would have been fried. It probably would have been a global disaster,” Samuhel said.
Keep checking back on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.
How cold did it get in Florida? Below freezing, and Miami saw ‘sluggish iguanas’
How cold did it get Wednesday morning?
Around 5 a.m., the National Weather Service in Miami warned of the possibility of “sluggish iguanas” and didn’t rule out some isolated raining of the cold-blooded creatures from your trees.
That’s what happens to iguanas when temperatures hit the 40s.
And that’s what temperatures did. Try 46 degrees in Pompano Beach, reported CBS4 meteorologist Craig Setzer.
Homestead, West Kendall, Opa-locka, Fort Lauderdale and Pembroke Pines woke to 48 degrees, he reported.
Miami saw 51, said Brian McNoldy, senior research associate at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School.
So no records. Miami would have had to go under 43 degrees and Fort Lauderdale dip below 35 to go into the record books.
Still, it was cool.
The Florida Keys ranged from 51 degrees in North Key Largo to 61 at the southernmost point, Key West, reported WSVN meteorologist Vivian Gonzalez.
Tuesday evening, by 6 p.m., Miami had already tied its record low maximum temperature (or record cool maximum temp) of 64 degrees, the National Weather Service in Miami posted on Twitter. And, by 8 p.m. or so, Miami folks who went outside found themselves shivering at 55 degrees.
And it would only get, and feel, cooler than the speed limit.
The wind chill factor — what it really feels like — was closer to the mid-40s or cooler in most of Miami-Dade and Broward counties, WSVN’s Gonzalez said.
The whole state took in its coldest air since the beginning of the year.
“A frosty night,” reported the National Weather Service in Tallahassee, where it was 35 degrees.
Jacksonville, Gainesville and Crystal River in North Florida all hit 32 degrees — the freezing point — the University of Florida’s weather school, UF Weather, posted on Twitter just before 8 a.m.
And these places were warmer than frosty Cross City (29 degrees), Live Oak (28), Ocala (29) and Perry (30).
Cedar Key, at 43, was the warm spot near Gainesville.
Central Floridians saw frost Wednesday morning, as in East Orlando where the temperature fell to 35 degrees, according to meteorologist Ed Valee of Empire Weather.
“It is soooo cold up here in Orlando … Holy hell … usually this weather doesn’t start until mid-January,” read one representative tweet Wednesday morning. (Maybe “hell” isn’t the right example.)
The National Weather Service in Tampa Bay sent out a photo from Paul Close, one of its senior meteorologists, that showed light frost on the fields and roof tops in Valrico as temps sunk to 35 degrees as the sun rose.
Homeless shelters in South Florida
▪ The Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust activated its Cold Weather Emergency Plan Tuesday afternoon and it runs through Thursday morning. “The National Weather Service has forecast temperatures at or below 50 degrees in portions of Miami-Dade County. As a result, HT will open shelters for the homeless population,” Charles Cyrille, the trust’s division director, said in an alert.
Shelters in Miami-Dade include Dunn at 1028 NW Third Ave. in Miami; Red Roof Inn at 3401 NW Le Jeune Rd. in Miami; North Miami at 12221 W. Dixie Hwy. in North Miam; St Michaels at 28200 SW 125th Ave. in Homestead; and Hampton Inn at 3449 NW 42nd Ave. in Miami.
If you require assistance with homeless sheltering, call the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust Helpline at 877-994-4357 or 305-375-2273.
▪ Broward County opened shelters Tuesday night for the homeless in need of a warm place. Broward officials have a 10 a.m. meeting to determine whether to open shelters for another night Wednesday.
If you have questions or need additional information on the homeless plan in Broward, contact the Homeless Helpline at 954-563-4357.
What about the rest of the week?
“Brace for one more very chilly morning tomorrow, South Florida,” WSVN meteorologist Vivian Gonzalez said Wednesday. “After that, a warming trend begins, and it won’t be as cold on Friday morning.”
She’s talking 48 degrees Thursday morning, then 59 degrees on Friday.
The National Weather Service agrees. Thursday morning will still be cold across South Florida and the rest of the state but inching upward as we head into Friday and the weekend when we should range from the 60s to low-70s and a high in the upper-70s on Sunday in South Florida.
Gainesville will feel the low-40s Thursday and hit 70 degrees on Friday and 74 on Saturday.