August 29 and 30 2016 Aurora Storm Live Blog

Share Button

Northern Lights Now – SWPC has issued a G1 geomagnetic storm watch for potential aurora activity on Monday August 29 and Tuesday August 30, 2016. KP values could exceed 5.0. NLN will be live blogging this storm here. Check back often!

Update 8/30 13:10 UTC (09:30 am EST on 8/30)

It takes a lot of patience to hunt aurora. She was a no-show for most hunters last night. There was never quite the right environment with the Bz shifting or not strong enough and low density and the wind didn’t pick up.

Don’t write this one off yet. The bulk of the high speed wind hasn’t arrived, but it will. Over the last several hours the Bz has been much more consistently south. We could still get a show in the next 6-9 hours.

Update 8/30 06:10 UTC (02:10 am EST on 8/30)

Over the last hour, data has improved for aurora hunters. Bz has been consistently south and wind speed has ticked up above 400 km/s again. There have been a couple reports of aurora North of Toronto. With the current uptick, we expect more reports to start coming in from a little further south. Here’s the current wind data summary:

Solar wind data as of 6:10am UTC 8/30
Solar wind data as of 6:10am UTC 8/30

Update 8/30 05:00 UTC (01:00 am EST on 8/30)

The night is too short for our European hunters – the Sun is now coming up and they won’t see lady aurora tonight. For the East coast followers there are still about 4 hours left – but the data isn’t cooperating. Bz has taken occasional shifts into the negative rotation but none have been sustained long enough to make the lights dance in the mid latitude. For our left coast and down-under fans, there is still plenty of time. The solar wind won’t be as strong as originally predicted, but it will still come. Keep your fingers crossed that when it does arrive it brings a nice deeply southward oriented field.

Update 8/31 03:30 UTC (11:30pm EST on 8/29)

Wind speed data is starting to reflect the expected high speed stream. Readings are just under 400 km/s. Even better news: the Bz component has rotated back to a southward orientation. In the last 15 minutes it has shifted moderately strongly south with readings as low as -7.3. This should be enough that early aurora reports start flowing in from the northernmost outposts in the next 45 minutes to an hour. Please tag @northlightalert on aurora images you capture!

A note on the wing-KP: wing-KP is the model that runs NLN’s current KP real-time charts. The model is a neural net and the primary input is the 3-hour measured KP calculated for the USAF at Boulder. Because that has a three hour delay, wingKP models often underestimate the actual KP at the beginning of a storm and overestimate the values at the end of a storm. If this storm continues, it’s possible that areas that typically need a KP of 5 to see a show will get one even when the wingKP models are only registering a 4.

Update 8/31 01:20 UTC (9:20pm EST on 8/29)

A minor interplanetary shock was detected in DSCOVR data at 0100UTC. The Bz made a sudden shift from -7nT to +7nT, at the same time, density decrease and wind speeds increased slightly. This is a minor shock, but is an indicator of the leading edge of the high speed wind stream from the coronal hole is arriving. With the Bz rotating to a positive orientation, there won’t be aurora for a while. Fingers crossed that the next shock rotates the field back to negative. It is normal for the fields to oscillate a several times during the onset of an active period before settling into one predominatite orientation

DSCOVR data indicates the onset of the first real shock of this storm
DSCOVR data indicates the onset of the first real shock of this storm

Update 8/31 00:00 UTC (8:00pm EST on 8/29)

Ba has turned south and somewhat strongly. In the below snapshot from the NLN DSCOVR solar wind data page, you can see that Bz has been negative for over and hour and has been below -5nT for over 5 minutes. This, combined with the density and strong Bt should be enough to push KP into the 3s. Still waiting on the stronger solar wind. Once it arrives, it’s likely the density will drop.

Bz has now been negative over an hour, and moderately strongly for 5 minuts
Bz has now been negative over an hour, and moderately strongly for 5 minuts

Update 8/29 21:00 UTC (5:00pm EST on 8/29)

The expected solar wind speed is now late. As of 2100UTC the solar wind speeds have increased slightly to 360 km/s. That is still very slow compared to the expected wind speeds in the next several hours that could be in the 550-600 km/s range. Bz shifted north again about two hours ago. Bt and Density have remained favorable. The initial shock of the faster wind could arrive any time in the next couple hours. We’re in #WaitAndSee mode.

Update 8/29 16:00 UTC (12:00pm EST on 8/29)

Still waiting for the high speed wind to arrive. Bz made a sudden shift to negative about 4 hours ago around. If that holds, it could be a good sign for aurora hunters

Update 8/29 11:45 UTC (7:45am EST on 8/29)

Now about 6 hours away from when the forecast is calling for the first period of G1 storming. These forecasts generally have an error of +/- 6 hours. If the storming starts right on time it should be picking up just as it starts to get dark in Europe.

As you are watching the data remember that there is a delay between DSCOVR and Earth. It takes about 40-60 minutes between when a solar shock hits the satellite and when it induces aurora on Earth. That is why the real-time KP charts typically show a 60 minute lead time, they are based on the data recorded at the satellite. When the wind speed is stronger, that lead time decreases because it takes less time for the magnetic material to travel that last distance.

Table shows the lead time between data at DSCOVR and at Earth
Table shows the lead time between data at DSCOVR and at Earth

Update 8/29 04:00 UTC (12:00am EST on 8/29)

As expected, no sign of increased solar wind speeds yet. If you are interested in monitoring them yourself, you can find live updating charts of data from the DSCOVR satellite on NLN’s DSCOVR solar wind data page.

The weather for aurora looks great for tomorrow evening for the east coast. On this map blue means clear skies. This is for 8PM est, just before the sun sets and in the currently predicted peak of this storm:

Lots of clear skies in the Northeast for Monday's aurora storm
Lots of clear skies in the Northeast for Monday’s aurora storm

Update 8/29 00:30 UTC (8:30pm EST on 8/28)

The G1 watch period has officially started. This storm’s activity isn’t expected to start for several more hours. Solar wind speed as measured at DSCOVR is about 375 km/s. As the storm picks up, this should increase to between 550 and 600 km/s. As it does, watch the Bz component, aurora activity will increase the as it goes negative, and will become stronger the deeper negative it is and the longer it stays there.

The G1 watch period is now active.
The G1 watch period is now active.

Aurora Activity Predicted for August 29 and 30, 2016

Share Button

Northern Lights Now – SWPC has posted a G1 geomagnetic storm watch for Monday and Tuesday August 29 and 30. KP values are expected to be 5 and higher. Aurora hunters should prepare for a show.

The timing of the storm coincides with a nearly new moon which will make for terrific dark skies. In the northern hemisphere, nights are starting to get longer so there is even more opportunity to have a chance to see the lights.

Notifications timeline from SWPC shows the G1 storm watch as a green bar.
Notifications timeline from SWPC shows the G1 storm watch as a green bar.

You can see the current predicted timing of the storm on the NLN AuroraCast page

This storm is due to the return the coronal hole that produced the aurora on august 2nd and 3rd. During that storm, KP values reached as high as 5.67 for several 15 minute periods and aurora pictures streamed in from around the world. You can see that the CH is a little smaller than last rotation, but it is also a little further south. Here is a view of the coronal hole from the last pass and from the current pass.

Current and Previous rotations for this coronal hole.
Current and Previous rotations for this coronal hole.

More details to follow… come back soon

Happy Hunting

Surprise G1 Aurora Storm on August 23/24 2016

Share Button

Northern Lights Now – The high speed wind stream from a coronal hole that was pointed towards Earth on August 21 is arriving with a stronger than expected impact. As a result KP values are reflecting an ongoing G1 level storm. The storm has allowed aurora hunters to see the lights in Denmark and Sweden and in the US in Maine. The initial forecasts only called for a period of enhanced solar wind speeds and a max KP value of 4. This is the coronal hole that is currently impacting Earth as it looked on August 21:

Aug 21 coronal hole produces Aurora and G1 storming on Aug 23rd and 24th
Aug 21 coronal hole produces Aurora and G1 storming on Aug 23rd and 24th

The high speed wind arrived earlier than expected, and stronger than expected. As an added bonus for our readers, it arrived with a period of several hours of southern oriented Bz. When the Bz component of the magnetic fields have negative readings, it means aurora are more likely. As this storm was building, it arrived with a period of over 4 hours where the Bz was negative from about 16:00-20:00 UTC. At points it was strongly negative with readings of -10Bz. This is the image of NLN’s accumulated aurora power chart from the peak of the first wave of the storm:

DISOVR accumulate Aurora power Graph from the peak of the first wave of the storm
DISOVR accumulate Aurora power Graph from the peak of the first wave of the storm

There are a couple interesting things to point out in that graph:

  • At the time of the snapshot the total magnetic field (Bt) had been strong for over 12 hours, and very strong in the last hour.
  • Wind speeds had really only just started picking up in the last 2 hours.
  • The real kicker was that Bz had been negative for over 2 hours and was as strong at -10nT (very strong) for 5 minutes.

It is rare that a coronal hole triggers all 4 of these metrics at the same time on this chart. When they are all there, it’s a good sign for aurora hunters.

Here are some of the shots that we saw come in on Twitter:

Some of the first Images of this storm came from Denmark by @ADphotography24:

Another from Sweden by Göran Strand (Also the first wave of this storm):

From Rob Write (@RobWrightImages) on the Southern Maine Coast (in the second wave of this storm):

As of 3:20 UTC August 24 at the time of this writing, the storm has subsided a little. It looks like there could be anywhere from 3-6 more hours of enhanced solar wind speeds, and at any point the Bz could dip back south. If it does, Aurora hunters could be in for more of a treat. Keep an eye on the solar wind data.

Also, there is another coronal hole rotating towards Earth that has a history of producing good aurora. This could impact Earth on Aug 30th and 31st…. stay tuned!

Happy Hunting