Northern Lights Now – The combination of an arriving CIR in advance of high speed winds from a coronal hole and a glancing blow CME from a November 25 eruption have prompted SWPC to post a G1 storm watch for November 29. This means aurora will be possible with KP values in excess of 5 predicted. The forecast, and activity sources, are a little complicated, so here is a breakdown.
First, the recurrent coronal hole (below) pointed towards Earth on Novemeber 25 is expected to bring moderately high speed solar winds. On the previous rotation, this same coronal hole brought winds of 425-450 km/s. Data from STEREO-A, which gets hit by the solar winds from a coronal hole about a week before Earth due to it’s location, indicate the CH is now producing winds in excess of 500 km/s. As such, it is reasonable to expect winds between 500 and 600 km/s.
The leading edge of the high speed winds is often turbulent. This region, known as the CIR, is expected to arrive early on Nov 29 and this is the time that the high speed winds are most likely to induce a burst of aurora.
In addition to the coronal hole, there was an eruption on November 25 that released a CME. The majority of the CME material was launched to the East and North of Earth, but some of the released plasma cloud is predicted to arrive at Earth as a glacing blow, also on Nov 29.
The WSA-Enlil model, below, shows the glancing blow. Notice the areas of lighter blue and green on the upper chart. These show the areas of plasma ejected in the CME as after it has traveled most of the way to Earth. Earth, the green dot, is on the very edge of that activity with a very wispy impact around 5AM UTC.
These two features make the forecast difficult. It is possible they could arrive around the same time and make for a pretty amazing G2 level storm. They could also not interact much and simply make two separate periods of G1 storming. Or, the CME could miss Earth entirely and the CIR could be too weak to induce much Aurora. This is a wait and see storm, so keep an eye on the data!