Friday, September 08, 2017

Aurora Notify Twitter Feed Lit Up Yesterday - But We Had Clouds - More Aurora For Tonight

When there's a significant event on the sun likely to cause northern lights, my Aurora Notify feed tells of the approaching light show.  First there are pictures from northern Europe - maybe Scandinavia, Scotland, Ireland.  Then perhaps someone in Iceland posts a picture and then we started getting the Canadian reports.  So Alaskans have plenty of time to prepare.

So the notices Wednesday and Thursday were pretty enthusiastic.  From the National Geographic:
"According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center, the sun began unleashing its fury on Wednesday at 5:10 a.m. ET, with an X2.2 flare. Just three hours later, the sun produced a second flare measuring a whopping X9.3—the most powerful on record since 2006.
The strongest solar flare measured in modern times happened in 2003, when scientists recorded a blast so powerful that it was off the charts at X28."

Except it was cloudy yesterday in Anchorage.  I went out several times to check.  I even found a USAIRnet site that has maps of current cloud cover.  Last night it showed Anchorage cloudy to Wasilla, but Palmer was showing clear.  Did I want to drive 45 miles for the chance of seeing the aurora?  If I didn't live in Alaska, probably I would have.  Today we had sun and clear skies.  Normally I'm content with clouds and rain at night and sun in the day.  But would the clear skies hold out to tonight?  It's 3:30pm now and the clouds are back.  But the cloud cover map from 2:53 shows us clear still.

At the site, the page is interactive and you can put the pointer on any of the circles and get more information.  Maybe these are just local thin clouds and a little further north it will be clear this evening.  These is supposed to be a pretty big solar storm.  (Is there any relationship between solar storms and hurricane intensity?*)

Today, as it gets dark in Europe, the Aurora Notify tweets are starting again.  Here's one from today:

I'll check the skies tonight and this map and the reports as the roll in and decide if I'm going for a ride to the north.

*I couldn't just leave that question hanging.  With google, no one has an excuse not to find out the facts.  NASA has a great page on solar storms FAQs.  [Really, I need to be more careful.  It's got a page full of information, but I don't know enough to evaluate how good it is. It looks good to this solar novice.]

Question 14 is:
"What are some real-world examples of space weather impacts?"
It talks about power outages, satellite communication problems, and impacts on radio waves, but not on earth weather per se.  But if the satellites went down, tracking the hurricane would probably be more difficult.

Nature has a 2008 report of a study that suggests there is a connection, but not what I expected.  They tracked hurricane activity and solar activity and found with high solar intensity, weaker hurricanes.  But there seems to be a lop of skepticism about the link.

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