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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.

Aurora on April 2nd and 3rd Live Blog

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Northern Lights Now – SWPC has upgraded the storm watch posted yesterday from G1 to G2 and extended the watch an additional 24 hours. NLN will be live blogging this storm and sharing updates as they are available – check back often over the next 36 hours for updates.

Tim Peake on the International Space Station:


Update 3:00 AM UTC 4/3/2016 (11:00pm EST -4/2/2016)

Some lights over Rovaniemi, Finland from All About Lapland:

In Tasmania, there was a hint of the Southern Lights on the horizon:

Update 10:00 PM UTC 4/3/2016 (6:00pm EST)

This will be the last post for this period of geomagnetic activity, unless the storm surprises and kicks back up again. In the end this storm was limited to a single period where KP reached the G2 threshold and a second period where it peaked at G1 over a total of nine hours. This isn’t far off from what we originally predicted. The storm arrived about 12 hours later than the preditions. The peak wind speeds meaured was 548km/s, almost exactly as forecast, but the 5 minute average measured speed never passed 520km/s.

There were some people who caught a glimpse of the Aurora, thank you for sharing!

This storm may be wrapping up. Solar wind speeds have already started decreases and are now below 500km/s. KP has also been slowing decreasing after about 4 hours of G1 storming from 18:00 to 22:00 UTC. Once the official data from Boulder is available, we should get confirmation that there was a brief period of G2 storming as well.

The timing and clouds mean not many people got to see aurora during this storm. Astronaughts on the International Space Station should have seen some of the show, and there’s a chance that hunters in New Zealand and possible around the great lakes may have seen some of the show. Please share your pictures with us on Twitter and follow NLN (@northLightAlert) too if you aren’t already.

Update 8:45pm UTC 4/2/2016 (5:45pm EST)

Boulder is reporting one period of G1 storming so far. There has been a brief period where the wing KP was predicting G2 storming (at 6.33 – the peak in the chart below). This storm is coming in just about as expected. It was a little late, which indicates that the solar wind was a little slower than the models, and with the wind a little slower the max KP is a little lower. But the slower wind speed also means the storm could last a little longer than the original forecast. If Bz stays negative there could be an extended period of G1 activity giving North America a show tonight.

Boulder is reporting one period of G1 storming so far tonight
Boulder is reporting one period of G1 storming so far tonight
NLN's inforgraphic showing wing KP and Ovation aurora oval from tonight
NLN’s inforgraphic showing wing KP and Ovation aurora oval from tonight

Most of the normal aurora hot spots in Europe were clouded in tonight, so there weren’t many northern lights reports. The skies look much clearer over North America tonight. If the storm continues for several more hours (very possible), American and Canadian aurora hunter should be rewarded.

Clear Skies perdicted across most of North America this evening
Clear Skies perdicted across most of North America this evening

Update 4:00pm UTC 4/2/2016 (1:00pm EST)

The solarstorm is now arriving. Solar wind speeds have increased to above 450 km/s. This storm appears to be arriving with the Bz oriented South. This is great news for aurora hunters. If Bz stays negative (south) over the next several hours, KP shold increase into the G1 and Possbly G2 range.

Data (visualizations from spaceweatherlive) showing solarstorm arriving.
Data (visualizations from spaceweatherlive) showing solarstorm arriving.

Update 11:00am UTC 4/2/2016 (7:00am EST)

The expected solar wind has not arrived at Earth yet. In the last hour there have been hints that it may be about to be detected. The Solar Wind Density has increased and is currently registering above 10 parts per cubic centimeter after increasing from the ambient 1-4 p/cm3. This is sometimes a short-term leading indicator that anticipates the increase in wind speed. It is often the case that space weather predictions miss by +/-6 hours, so this is not unexpected.

Solar wind  density has increased to above 7 p/cm3 in the last half hour
Solar wind density has increased to above 7 p/cm3 in the last half hour

The delay in the arrival of the expected activity hints that it may be weaker than initially anticipated, but also that it may last longer than initially anticipated. Aurora hunters are now in wait-and-see mode for this storm.

Update 4:00am UTC 4/2/2016 (Midnight EST)

SWPC has upgraded the expected storm from G1 to G2, they are now expecting a period of Moderate storming in the second 3 hour block after the storm arrives. The watch period has also been extended into April 3rd. Here’s the snapshot of the auroracast forecast for today and tomorrow.

AuroraCast shows G2 storming on 4/2 and G1 storming on 4/3
AuroraCast shows G2 storming on 4/2 and G1 storming on 4/3

Solar wind is still at ambient levels at between 330 and 350 km/s. It should pick up over the next several hours.

Happy Hunting!