All posts by Charles Baldridge

Charles Baldridge a data scientist with a passion for studying space weather and chasing the northern lights. He has been lucky enough to see aurora in person on multiple occasions in his hometown of Burlington Vermont.

Valentines Weekend G1/G2 Watch Posted

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The SWPC was posted a Geomagnetic Storm watch for G1 (kp=5) conditions on Feb 14 and G2(Kp=6) on Feb 15. We’ll share more info as we have it.

G1 Storm Watch Feb 8, 2014

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The NOAA SWPC has posted a G1 Geomagnetic storm watch for February 8, 2014. The watch is from midnight to midnight UTC, or 7:00PM Friday night to 7:00PM Saturday night EST.

A G1 watch means SWPC models are indicating there is a possibility of Kp values above 5. There are two events that are responsible for the increased Kp values:

1) There is a coronal hole high speed stream (CH HSS) currently directed at earth. You can see the coronal hole in the SDO/AIA images from two days ago. The coronal hole is the dark area at roughly the meridian.

Coronal Hole
Coronal hole visible at the meridian on 2/5/2014 in SCO/AIA 211 imagery

Charged particles are released from coronal holes. When the hole is positioned at the central meridian (towards Earth), those particles arrive at earth between 2 and 3 days later. They appear as an enhancement in the solar wind, a negative Bz and potentially as elevated Kp values.

2) Of all those Solar flares that originated from solar regions 1967 and 1968 over ther last two weeks, one had a CME with a partial earth-directed component. You can see these regions as the brighter areas in the image above just to the right of the coronal hole – 1967 to the South, 1968 to the North. As Earth is hit with the glancing blow from the CME, that will also elevate the Kp values.

As a bonus, at least for those in much of the northern United States, skies will be generally clear. In this image of the cloud cover forecast for 1:00am EST, darker blue means clearer skies:

Cloud cover 1:00AM EST
Cloudcover models show clear skies for much of the Northern US

As always, remember that these models frequently over-estimate actual Kp, so don’t be surprised if we get nothing. While there is a watch, it is a good time to be monitoring the Kp. You can monitor the current and near-term predicted Kp values on Northern Lights Now!

Happy Hunting

Region 1967 – Several M-class, 2 CMEs, and a G1 watch (so far!)

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For the last several days, solar activity has been between moderate and high. In total we’ve seen over 30 C-Class flares, 13 M-class flares, and 2 CMEs with Earth directed components. The SWPC has posted a G1 (Minor) Geomagnetic Storm Watch for the arrival of a partial halo CME on sometime between midnight Saturday (UTC) and midnight Sunday.

SDO image of M6.68 Solar flare
M6.68 Solar Flare January 30, 2014 Source: SDO

In the last post about Region 1967 we discussed how this region held a lot of potential for producing additional flares. It has not disappointed, but it has yet to produce sure-win flare for producing aurora.

After the 7 M-Class flares on Tuesday, the region produced none on Wednesday, 3 on Thursday, none on Friday and 2 M-Class flares so far today – February 1, 2014. Of all of those flares, the biggest was an M6.6 (pictured above) on Thursday at 16:28 UTC. It produced the CME that prompted the Space Weather Prediction Center to release the G1 geomagnetic storm watch. The LASCO imagery showed a partial halo for this CME – that means the majority of the CME is not-directed to Earth, only a small amount has an Earth directed component. So, this G1 watch comes with a stronger than normal caveat and reminder that only about 50% of the time there is a G1 watch does the Kp reach 5. Of course, as always, you can keep an eye on the current short term Kp predictions at NLN on our live chart.

Region 1967 has 5 delta spots. The delta spots have grown and become closer together over the last couple days. The region has also developed several new spots over the last 12 hours that we are monitoring. The region is still positioned well to produce an Earth-directed CME.

Region 1968 produced an M-Class flare as well. This region was upgraded to Beta-Gamma magnetic structure. It has grown from 160 Millionths to 210 Millionths. The region is showing signs of increasing in magnetic complexity. The fact that this region generated this flare reminds us that delta structures are not necessarily required to produce M-Class flares. We’ll be keeping an eye on this region over the next several days as well.

Bottom line: There is a chance for aurora Saturday or Sunday night. Keep track of the Kp number and be prepared to go aurora hunting. Keep an eye on the solar flares coming from regions 1967 (Beta-Gamma-Delta) and 1968 (Deta-Gamma) over the next couple days as they are well positioned and have magnetic complexity. Follow NLN on social media for alerts about Kp and CMEs.

Happy Hunting!