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Northern lights in California? Severe geomagnetic storm could mean rare aurora show

CBS News Live
CBS News Sacramento Live

SACRAMENTO – Parts of California could be in for an extremely rare treat into the weekend: the Northern Lights.

NOAA officials say a severe G4 geomagnetic storm could emerge on Friday. Severe G4 geomatic storms are the second-strongest rating these events can get, with widespread voltage control problems being a particular concern.

Aurora borealis activity is heightened during geomagnetic storms – and an event of this magnitude means some places that usually don't see any northern lights could catch a glimpse of the show.

According to the University of Alaska, Fairbanks Geophysical Institute's Aurora Forecast, the northern lights could possibly be seen Saturday as far south as California.

As the forecast details, "highly active auroral displays will be visible overhead from Inuvik, Yellowknife, Rankin and Iqaluit, to Carson City, Oklahoma City, Little Rock and Raleigh, and visible low on the horizon from Southern California, Phoenix, Austin, and Montgomery."

Saturday's aurora forecast UAF Geophysical Institute

Will California actually see the northern lights? 

Realistically, for latitudes as far south as California, the best chance to see the lights will mean getting to as high an elevation as possible and looking low on the northern horizon.

It won't be the first time in recent memory that California found itself included in the aurora forecast. Back in March 2023, another severe geomagnetic storm warning was issued by NOAA that included part of far Northern California. Video captured during that event showed the aurora showing up near Shasta Lake.

As detailed by the University of Alaska, an extreme aurora event in 1958 mean that the northern lights were visible all the way in Mexico City.

This weekend's event is the first time a storm watch has been issued by NOAA for a G4 since January 2005

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