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‘Severe’ geomagnetic storm makes northern lights visible in southern Ontario

Click to play video: 'Aurora Borealis dances across night skies in southern and central Ontario'
Aurora Borealis dances across night skies in southern and central Ontario
WATCH ABOVE: Viewer video shows the vibrant blues and greens of the Aurora Borealis as the phenomenon lights up the night skies above central and southern Ontario in the predawn hours on Friday. The light display was seen in towns across the province, including Aurora, Orangeville and Kawartha Lakes – Mar 24, 2023

A “severe” geomagnetic storm made the northern lights visible quite far south overnight, and many residents in southern Ontario were able to see vibrant colours in the sky.

Global News meteorologist Ross Hull said a coronal hole developed in the sun, which is a cooler, less dense region that can allow solar winds to escape more easily towards earth.

“As they move towards earth, the solar winds interact with our geomagnetic field (which protects our planet from such events) and these geomagnetic events have different intensity levels,” Hull said.

“By 12:04 a.m. EDT on Friday, NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) was reporting a G4 (severe) geomagnetic storm which can lead to displays of the northern lights much farther south than is usual in North America and in the Northern Hemisphere – to an approximate latitude of 45 degrees which can be as far south as northern California and southern Ontario.”

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The lights were visible throughout parts of Ontario, including in Aurora, Orangeville and Kawartha Lakes.

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Social media posts also showed the lights visible near Guelph, Barrie, in Collingwood, Bowmanville, Niagara, and Ottawa, among other places.

Hull said there may be continued “aurora activity” over the weekend, but the NOAA isn’t expecting the geomagnetic storm levels to be as high.

“More in the G1 to G2 range which means the northern lights will not be visible as far south and of course viewing also depends on weather conditions,” Hull said.

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