Northern Lights Now – SWPC has posted a G1 geomagnetic storm watch for Sunday, March 6, 2016. This means global Kp could reach five prompting aurora to be visible at upper mid-latitudes. The expected activity is a result of the high speed solar wind from a coronal hole that was pointed toward Earth on March 2nd. As the high speed solar wind arrives, the charged particles it carries bombard and disturb the Earth’s magnetosphere leading to northern lights. Here’s an image of the coronal hole that as it was pointed towards Earth late on March 2nd:
As of Friday evening, SWPC is predicting the peak period of activity to arrive between 3:00AM and 6:00AM GMT on Sunday (10:00pm Saturday night to 1:00AM Sunday morning EST). NLN expects the wind speeds to start increasing around midnight GMT. The NLN AuroraCast shows the expected time periods of activity over the next three days:
Northern Lights Now – The expected high speed solar wind that prompted a G1 geomagnetic watch for February 17 arrived early, but delivered G1 and G2 storming conditions. The wind was faster moving than expected, clocking in around 670 km/s. The fast wind combined with periods of Bz south was enough to excite Earth’s geomagnetic fields. At the time of this blog post, there were 18 hours of continuous G1 and G2 – KP greater than 4.67 and 5.67 respectively – storming recorded, followed by another quick burst. Here is a graph showing the official readings from SWPC Boulder:
While this was a fairly strong aurora storm, there were not many aurora reports. Most of the prime viewing locations were clouded in. An large storm system across Iceland and the British Isles, general overcast across much of Scandinavia, and an East coast ice and snow storm prevented the viewers in the prime locations from experiencing this show. However, aurora hunters in some locations were able to capture the show:
New Zealand was treated to a brief period of lights just before sunrise as the storm started. Both Paul Le Comte and Ian Griffin got out of bed to snap pictures near Dunedin:
Northern Lights Now – A second G1 geomagnetic storm watch for the week is posted for Wednesday offering the possibility of KP=5 or more. The increase in aurora borealis activity is expected as the high speed solar wind arrives from the northern extension of a southern pole coronal hole. Wind speed from the coronal hole approached 600km/s as it passed the STEREO-Ahead satellite, and it appears to have extended slightly northwards since the pass. It is possible wind speeds could reach 660 km/s at Earth by Wednesday. Here’s an image of the coronal hole when it was directed towards Earth:
The current forecast from SWPC calls for a 6 hour period of potential KP=5+ starting around 3:00PM GMT. Here is NLN’s AuroraCast inforgraphic of the expected Max KP’s
As always – these watches have a +/- of about 6 hours, and about a 50% accuracy, so hope for the best and plan for the worst.