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Late September 2016 Aurora Live Blog

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Northern Lights Now – A large coronal hole pointed towards earth means there may be many as 72 hours of G2 storming between September 28 and September 30. It is likely that during that time KP values will occasionally be above 5.67 and the aurora borealis will treat Aurora hunters to a show. Refresh this page often as we’ll be posting live updates as this storm impacts Earth.

Update #11: 72:00 hours in, 0000 UTC 9/31/2016 (8:00pm EST 9/30/2016)

The interplanetary shock from the previous update did not usher in a significantly different solar wind environment. This storm has been exhausting and frustrating for Aurora hunters around the world. It’s tempting to call the storm over – the G2 watch is now expired – however, a quick peak at the SDO AIA 211 image of the Sun from yesterday indicates there may be one more round of enhanced solar wind on it’s way. Notice that there is a final “leg” of the coronal hole pointed towards Earth in the 9:00am UTC image form 9/29 in the Earth strike zone. It’s possible this will bring enhanced solar wind speeds in the second half of today. Starting in about 12 hours and lasting for between 12 and 24 additional hours will be the final chances for this storm to put on a real show. It’s frustrating, but it’s storms like this that make the storms where there is a good show that much more awesome!

One final leg of this large coronal hole
One final leg of this large coronal hole

The storm hasn’t been a total bust. Check out this Timelapse from Adam Hill Studios in the North West Territory:

Update #10: 69:15 hours in, 2115 UTC 9/30/2016 (5:15pm EST 9/30/2016)

It’s been quiet. The solar wind has been blowing past Earth consistently and in a non-aurora producing orientation. Until about 20 minutes ago. DSCOVR data reflected an interplanetary shock arriving, it can be seen as a sudden shift in solar wind parameters. Bz shifted quickly north, wind speed decreased and proton density dropped. Sometime this indicates a shift in the space weather environment. In this case, after a period of about 10 minutes, the Bz shifted back to the south. If it stays this way, G1 storming could pick back up. In fact, wingKP models are responding to this change and predicting a return to G1 conditions in the next 45 minutes. Here’s a snapshot of the data during the shock arrival:

Clear shift in solar wind data indicates an interplanetary shock arriving
Clear shift in solar wind data indicates an interplanetary shock arriving

Update #9: 52:30 hours in, 0430 UTC 9/30/2016 (12:30am EST 9/30/2016)

There has now been 24 hours of continuous solar wind stronger than 650 km/s. Solar wind hit a peak earlier today of over 800 km/s, which is solidly in the “very strong” range. The charged particles that are carried in the solar wind exert a force on the Earth’s magnetosphere. The force is cumulative and it acts like slowly continuing to push harder on a spring. The more “compressed” the magnetosphere is, the more likely it is to react to any periods of high proton density, strong Bt, or negative Bz. This is why magnetometers are measuring KP values in the G1 range despite only brief periods of south oriented Bz that have been occurring today.

The short story is that Earth is primed to put on an amazing aurora display if the solar wind becomes even slightly favorable for aurora. When/if it happens, there will be between 30-60 minutes of warning.

Update #8: 47:00 hours in, 2300 UTC 9/29/2016 (07:00pm EST 9/29/2016)

Wrapping up the second full day of G2 storm watch, and the third day of active storming. Today there have been 4 periods of G1 storming recorded. There should be more G1-G2 storming over the next 24 hours with the possibility for some G3 if the Bz cooperates (which it hasn’t been doing much of so far this storm.

Update #7: 36:30 hours in, 1230 UTC 9/29/2016 (08:30am EST 9/29/2016)

Since the last update, there has been nearly consistent G1 storming. Pictures of aurora and proton acrs started rolling in on Twitter. Take a look at the 6 hours chart from NLN’s current KP page showing consistently KP5+

Consistenly KP5+ over the last 5-6 hours
Consistenly KP5+ over the last 5-6 hours

These two twitter post show proton arcs that happened overnight for this storm, one in Montana, the other was visible in the North Caithness coast

Update #6: 29:00 hours in, 0500 UTC 9/29/2016 (01:00am EST 9/29/2016)

Just a quick update. The negative Bz did infact lead to a small substorm. KP is back to G1 levels. Check out that same webcam now, it is showing much more green:

More northern lights visible on Sebec Lake webcam
More northern lights visible on Sebec Lake webcam

Update #6: 28:15 hours in, 0415 UTC 9/29/2016 (12:15am EST 9/29/2016)

On of the great things about the internet is that people hook up webcams and share them with the world. Check out www.sebeclake.net where you can watch aurora live when it’s cloudy where you are. Right now, it’s clear in Eastern Main and the webcam is showing some faint green on the horizon:

Sebec Lake webcam shows some aurora on the horizon
Sebec Lake webcam shows some aurora on the horizon

On that note, after it has been quiet for the last 3-4 hours, the Bz has been oriented negative for over 15 minutes now at a strength of more than -5Bz. This means there could be a small substorm coming in the next 30-60 minutes. Watch that KP!

Update #5: 26:00 hours in, 0200 UTC 9/29/2016 (10:00pm EST 9/28/2016)

About one third of the way through the predicted duration of the late September active period and so far the storm is mostly as expected. There have been 2 periods of G2 storming recorded so far and 7 periods of G1. Solar wind has continued to stay in the range of 600-725km/s.

Two G2 periods and Seven G1 periods over the last 48 hours.
Two G2 periods and Seven G1 periods over the last 48 hours.

Those strong KP readings are all the more impressive because Bz has been variable, rarely staying negative for more than about an hour. That indicates the long duration of strong solare wind as primed the magnetosphere for a big show if there is a period of negative Bz that lasts a couple hours. Here is the 24 hour view of solar wind data, note that Bz is continuously shifting between negative (south) and positive (south) orientation (click to see full size image):

24 hour solar wind data graph from SWPC shows Bz's orientation has been variable
24 hour solar wind data graph from SWPC shows Bz’s orientation has been variable

We have not seen a lot of great pictures from this storm so far. Lots of the traditional Aurora hot spots are clouded in. Hopefully it clears out for some of you over the next 48 hours. Please share your pictures with as at @northLightAlert on Twitter!

Update #4: 20:45 hours in, 2045 UTC 9/28/2016 (5:45pm EST 9/28/2016)

G2 storming is ongoing now!

G2 storming shortly
G2 storming shortly

Update #3: 11:00 hours in, 1100 UTC 9/28/2016 (7:00am EST 9/28/2016)

Activity has decreased a bit over the last 9 hours. One additional period of G1 storming was recorded since the last update, current KP estimates are between 3 and 4 which is not enough for most of our readers to have a chance of seeing a show.

In the lull, let’s take a quick look at NLN’s dynamic inforgraphic of DSCOVR solar wind data. The chart below shows the strength and duration of the wind. Generally, more taller bars mean a better chance of a higher KP. The height of bars indicate how long the solar wind has been favorably exceeded the threshold along the bottom. For example, below: wind speed has been above 400km/s for over 48 hours, above 500km/s for over 18 hours, and above 600 km/s for an hour. One of the most important factors for aurora is Bz, the value on the right of the chart, when it is negative and has been for more than an hour or two, that is some of the best time to go out on the hunt. The chart updates automatically – no need to refresh that page!

Current Snapshot of NLN's dynamic DSCOVR solar wind infographic
Current Snapshot of NLN’s dynamic DSCOVR solar wind infographic

Update #2: 3.5 hours in, 0330 UTC 9/28/2016 (11:30pm EST 9/27/2016)

The official G2 watch period has started. There has been G1 and G2 activity consistently over the previous 24 hours, even before the offical watch period begins. This has happened without Bz making a sustained southward shift. Solar wind exceeded 700km/s for about an hour just after midnight GMT. Any sustained period of south oriented Bz could make for a very strong aurora display.

In the 0030 SWPC aurora forecast discussion, there are a pair of notes that it is possible that storming could reach G3 levels over the next three days. This would mean KP values of 6.67 and above!

SWPC discussion indicates the possibility of G3 storming on Days 2 and 3
SWPC discussion indicates the possibility of G3 storming on Days 2 and 3

Update #2: t-2 hours, 2200 UTC (6:00pm EST) 9/27/2016

The storm is rolling! G2 storming levels we reached in the 6:00pm UTC hour. Solar wind speeds are now over 650km/s and there have been periods of south oriented Bz. Here’s the reported 3-hour KP values from SWPC:

First Period of G2 storming reached in the 6pm UTC reporting period
First Period of G2 storming reached in the 6pm UTC reporting period

Aurora reports are already streaming in! Check out these northern lights that happened just after sunset in Iceland:

Update #1: t-20 hours, 0400 UTC (midnight EST) 9/27/2016

SWPC increases duration of storm watch to 72 hours. Here are the updated timings of this G2 storming. It is important to note that these specific timings are less meaningful in a long duration event like this as it’s likely that the exact timing of KP spikes will depend on when substorms carried by the solar wind arrive at Earth.

AuroraCast for days 2 and 3 (Sept 28 and 29)
AuroraCast for days 2 and 3 (Sept 28 and 29)

SWPC Notifications timeline shows three days of potential G2 storming
SWPC Notifications timeline shows three days of potential G2 storming

August 29 and 30 2016 Aurora Storm Live Blog

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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.

June 4-5 G2 Storm Live Blog

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Northern Lights Now – NLN will be live blogging tonight’s expected G2 solar storm, please come back often for updates.

Update 11:00am UTC 6/6/2016 (7:00am EST)

Sure enough! There was another substorm left in this active period. KP reached G2 levels in the 3-6am UTC period, while the short term KP forecast actually briefly reaching G3. Northern lights reports streamed in from western New York through the upper Midwest on Twitter. As of this update, KP is still in the G1 range, but the Bz shifted decisively north, so it may be done for good now. Thanks live tracking this storm with NLN! Here are some of those Twitter posts:

Update 2:00am UTC 6/6/2016 (11:00pm EST)

The storm is winding down. Solar winds are still high, but proton density and Bt have decreased. Bz is not making sustained or deep moves in the negative direction. The storm had one brief period where the short term forecast reached G2 levels, but the max three-hour activity was measured at G1. The timing of this storm also did not align well for aurora hunters as there were clouds in most places that would have been visible. New Zealand was the big winner. There still a chance a good substorm could produce Aurora for hunters in the midwest or Central Canada over the next couple hours, but it is becoming less and less likely. Here’s the graph of storm activity from this storm showing 4 periods of G1:

June 4-6 storm recap shows 4 periods of G1 storming.
June 4-6 storm recap shows 4 periods of G1 storming.

Update 9:00pm UTC 6/5/2016 (6:00pm EST)

The storm is still stirring! The Wing-KP model is now predicting KP=5.67 in 50 minutes. Solar wind speed are over 600 km/s and Bz is moving in and out of negative. If there is a sustained negative Bz, KP could shoot up into the G3 storming range. Best bet for aurora is Europe south of the “land of the midnight Sun.” Iceland won’t be getting dark enough for a show tonight, and it’s cloudy on the American East coast. If the storm lasts long enough hunters in the western great lakes and into the plains could get lucky.

G2 aurora storming predicted in 54 minutes.
G2 aurora storming predicted in 54 minutes.
Solar Wind speed has now exceeded 600 km/s
Solar Wind speed has now exceeded 600 km/s

Update 2:30pm UTC 6/5/2016 (11:30am EST)

Short term predictions now include KP=5.00 or G1 storming! Expect more aurora reports from the southern hemisphere soon!

G1 storming begins!
G1 storming begins!

Update 2:00pm UTC 6/5/2016 (11:00am EST)

Solar wind speeds are now reading above 500 km/s, the storm is arriving. It is arriving about 12 hours later than initially forecast, but it’s here. The timing is such that most of North America missed the first part of this storm. Our Kiwi and Aussie friends should get a good show though. If the storm continues on long enough, European aurora hunters may also get a treat. There have been a couple early Aurora reports from NZ. Here’s a back of cam picture of the beginning of the storm from Ian Griffin:

Update 10:00am UTC 6/5/2016 (6:00am EST)

Not much to report yet. Wind speeds over the lat hour climbed to as high as 390 km/s, but are still well off of the predicted speeds. In a hint of good news, Bz has been negative over the last hour. That negative Bz has helped push the predicted Bz to 4.33, it’s highest level of the storm. This shows that even with weak wind, a strong Bt and proton density plus a favorable Bz can be enough for aurora hunters. Stay tuned, the next 12 hours could be interesting.

predicted KP jumps to 4.33, the highest so far of this storm, due to negative Bz
predicted KP jumps to 4.33, the highest so far of this storm, due to negative Bz

Update 2:30am UTC 6/5/2016 (10:30pm EST)

Over the last three hours, the solar wind environment has started to reflect the influence of the coronal hole. Density has increased from around 3-4 parts per cubic centimeter to over 10, with spikes to 40+. The solar wind speed has increased slightly from ~300 km/s to 325-350 km/s. Over the next several hours, we’re expecting solar wind to gradually increase, it could reach as high as 600 km/s. Once the wind speed is higher, watch the Bz. If it shifts south, aurora should follow soon after. Here’s a graphic of the solar wind environment from the SWPC, note the distinct change in density profile and wind speed (labeled radial speed) around 23:00:

24 hours solar wind data from SWPC shows enhancement beginning around 23:00
24 hours solar wind data from SWPC shows enhancement beginning around 23:00

Update 9:30pm UTC 6/4/2016 (5:30pm EST)

The first hints that the solar storm may be arriving are showing in the ACE solar wind data. Proton density has slowly increased to 5 p/cm3 over the last 45 minutes, and took a sudden jump to 11 p/cm3 in the last 5 minutes. This was accompanied by an increase in Bt to 5 nT. It will still be several hours before there is any real chance for Aurora, but this is the first hint that activity may be picking up.

Short Spike in proton density is the first hint that expected activity may be arriving.
Short Spike in proton density is the first hint that expected activity may be arriving.