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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Surprise Geomagnetic Storm


Auroras over KALISPELL (Montana on April 20, 2020)

Space Weather News for April 20, 2020

SURPRISE GEOMAGNETIC STORM: The first geomagnetic storm of 2020 (category G1) took forecasters by surprise this morning when a CME impact sparked bright auroras over Canada and some northern-tier US states. At the time of this writing, Earth's magnetic field is still reverberating from the impact, raising the possibility of more high-latitude auroras tonight.

"Northern lights danced across the entire northwestern Montana sky early this morning," reports Philip Granrud. "I photographed them with a wide angle lens on top of my car several miles outside of Kalispell."

"It was such a nice break from everything that's been going on in the world lately," he says.

This is the first geomagnetic storm of 2020. In fact, the last time storm levels reached G1 on NOAA Storm Scales was more than a year ago: March 16-17, 2019.

The cause of the storm appears to be a faint slow-moving CME (coronal mass ejection) that left the sun on April 15th, shown here in an animation from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO):



This CME was not squarely Earth-directed, and forecasters did not think it was likely to hit our planet. Nevertheless, it apparently did. Solar wind data suggest that the CME sideswiped Earth with a snowplow-like buildup of plasma shortly after 0130 UT on April 20th.

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