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Space Science

Solar Storms Could Bring Northern Lights South 88

Posted by samzenpus
from the wandering-borealis dept.
RedEaredSlider writes "Increased solar activity could give residents of the continental US, southern Europe and Japan the chance to see the northern lights for the first time in several years. The National Weather Service's Space Weather Prediction Center says the sun is entering a period of high activity, marked by more sunspots and a greater chance of a coronal mass ejection, or CME, hitting the Earth. That would result in auroras being visible much further from the poles than they usually are."
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Solar Storms Could Bring Northern Lights South

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  • Far out, man.
  • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @07:15PM (#34704798)
    Start madly flailing our arms in a haphazard way above our heads, screaming about how a CME will cause worldwide power outages, cause the end of civilization and generally revert us to either man eating cannibals, savages with funny tattoos and a general like of badly built all terrain vehicles slapped together out of junk or living under a sheet of ice a mile thick after increased solar activity somehow triggers a massive chain reaction that activates new types of particles in the earth's core and causes massive volcanic activity thus blocking out the sun?

    *flails arms madly above head while running in small circles*
    • by anethema (99553)
      Yes I would kent.
    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Yes, anyone who's seriously scared that that scenario will happen should run around flailing their arms. This has 2 major benefits:
      1. The non-idiots can identify the idiots more easily.
      2. The idiots are too busy flailing their arms to cause any real damage.

    • by kesuki (321456)

      personally i am not worried. life is good.

    • Just swap CME for AGW and you'll fit right in.

    • Start madly flailing our arms in a haphazard way above our heads, screaming about how a CME will cause worldwide power outages, cause the end of civilization and generally revert us to either man eating cannibals, savages with funny tattoos and a general like of badly built all terrain vehicles slapped together out of junk...

      Dude, stop spoiling the new Lady Gaga Video(s)!!!

    • by r0b!n (1009159)

      savages with funny tattoos and a general like of badly built all terrain vehicles slapped together out of junk

      How is this different to current civilisation?

    • AURORA BOREALIS all the way.... WOOOO! What does this MEAN?!
    • by Phoghat (1288088)

      a CME will cause worldwide power outages, cause the end of civilization and generally revert us to either man eating cannibals, savages with funny tattoos and a general like of badly built all terrain vehicles slapped together out of junk or living under a sheet of ice a mile thick after increased solar activity somehow triggers a massive chain reaction that activates new types of particles in the earth's core and causes massive volcanic activity thus blocking out the sun?

      I've been waiting for that since I heard about 2012

    • if all the transformers on the long range lines get blown at the same time in the northern hemisphere, yeah, the world is not going to end. but it will still be a huge issue to get it all fixed, since there currently is no emergency trip for an incoming flare on most systems

      so your comment is funny, but it is just as stupid to have a false sense of complacency as it is to be a false alarmist

    • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

      This is a clear consequence of global warming caused by our over-reliance on fossile fuels!

    • I see a lot of joking about the possibility of CMEs and the possible results, but how many making jokes realize that we've been hit glancing blows by CMEs and they did major damage? Look up the power outage in Quebec that was caused by a CME? We lost one major communications satellite that is believed to have been caused by a CME. We've had no real major problems since electronics went solid state except the possibility of that one satellite and the results were not far reaching, OTOH we have lost GPS sign
  • I hope we get to see them here in Oregon.

    • I recently moved to Anchorage, and I haven't seen them yet. There have only been one or two nights when they came far enough south, and it was cloudy.

      But hey, it'll be getting better for the next six years, so I've got time.

      • Your problem is that you are in Anchorage. As any Alaskan will tell you, the best thing about Anchorage is that it's only 30 minutes from Alaska.

        Just slide up the Palmer Highway for a while and look up....
      • Welcome!

        You can see the Northern Lights in Anchorage from time to time, but I haven't seen them yet this year. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if that's due to solar (in)activity, terrestrial weather or light pollution. When I first moved to Anchorage ('89), it had the clearest night sky I had ever seen. Over the last few years, though, the night sky has been less and less dramatic as Anchorage has gotten brighter. Now, I can only see the brighter stars from my house, and that can't make it any easier to
      • What ColdWetDog said. My kid lives in Wasilla (yep, that one), and he and his wife have managed to get some decent Northern Light shots. I don't even think he's uploaded them anywhere for me to point you to them.

        I remember seeing them at 40 in Ohio (just east of Columbus) when I was a kid. My mom got me up at 3AM (because she was up for the day making coffee... Of course, she went to bed at 7PM...)

      • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

        It's hard to see them in Anchorage because of the city lights more than anything. They still show up this far south, but they are much fainter than they are up north, so they get washed out by the city's glow. Head out to Wasilla and you are much more likely to see them. (Girdwood would be great, except the horizon is dominated by the mountains so they have to come really far south in order to see them.)

        In Fairbanks you can see them on a regular basis - much smaller city and much further north (Chena Hot

    • From the article:

      . . .could give residents of the continental U.S., southern Europe and Japan the chance to see the northern lights. . .

      and,

      . . .that with luck, people as far south as Texas might see it.

      Japan ranges from 28 to 44 degrees N latitude and Salem is at 44 degrees N latitude. If the light pollution in your area isn't bad, then you may well be able to see the lights when the sun is most active. Or you could move to Fairbanks and see it quite frequently.

      • Note that the auroras are aligned to the magnetic poles, so you can't just use latitude. As a result, people in places like Ohio are more likely to see them than people in Oregon. Here's a web page with the current conditions: http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/pmap/index.html [noaa.gov]
        • Fair enough. The article, though, mentioned that the lights might be visible as far south as Texas, and also mentioned visibility in Japan. Japan and the north pole are at about 160 degrees apart. (The north pole is about 114W, while Osaka is at 135E.) Salem is at 135W, just 20 degrees off the magnetic north pole, and moving west as we speak [slashdot.org]. If it's visible in Japan, it should be visible in Oregon.
          • The claim that they will be visible in Japan seems far fetched to me. According to NOAA's website (http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/Aurora/index.html) Tokyo is at 29 degrees magnetic latitude. Northern Japan is about 10 degrees north of that (call in 40 degrees). NOAA's tables only go down to 45 degrees.
            According to NOAA's North American map, Salem Oregon should be able to see anything above a Kp=8 (which is pretty rare).
            Note that TFA just says that activity is going up as part of the 11-ish year cycle. It d
  • When I see it. I'll lay down harder money that we're entering a new solar minimum, SS counts are low, we've even had months with 0 sunspots in the last year and a half. I'll lay down that we're entering another phase on par with the dalton minimum.

    • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

      I don't know if you know this, but solar storms don't correlate strongly with sun spots.

      Solar flares seem to be more likely during periods of high sun spot activity, but 0 sun spots does not mean 0 solar flares. It just means it's not quite as likely.

      Case in point, in August there were four large CME's associated with just one sun spot. Sun Spots are usually around when CME's occur, but they are bad predictors of such things, so I wouldn't lay down "harder" money (whatever that is).

  • by VoiceOfSanity (716713) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @07:35PM (#34705064)
    The key word there in that article is *could* give residents the chance to see the aurora. If you look at the chart on the Solar Cycle Progression and Prediction webpage (http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/SolarCycle/) then you'll notice that the predicted sunspot activity and the actual activity are still very far apart. Additionally, the predicted maximum sunspot number is going to be well below the past two cycles (1991 hitting a sunspot number of 147, and 200/2001 hitting a high of 120. For this cycle, they're predicting a high of only 90 for the sunspot number, a level that hasn't been that low since the 1880's.

    So while it is possible that folks south of 45 degrees latitude might see the aurora, it'll have to be courtesy of a really strong CME (coronal mass ejection) aimed in our general direction. Otherwise, it'll probably be a rather boring solar cycle 24.
    • by Troed (102527) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @08:02PM (#34705346) Homepage Journal

      Yeah and that 90 has recently been lowered as well, we're down to a guesstimated 64: http://solarscience.msfc.nasa.gov/predict.shtml [nasa.gov]

    • by Xelios (822510)
      You're right, it's just not the same without Jack Bauer...
    • by k6mfw (1182893)

      "COULD..." yes, something to keep in mind as I comtemplate whether to go outside the city (SF bay area) to possibly observe (but fat chance, it's raining). I have heard photos and video doesn't really show true appearance of auroras. I were to see any I'll take some video.

      I had a physics instructor describe while she was working on her PhD, she was with a team of physicists flying in airplanes near the poles. One team was north, the other south. Auroras appear on one pole then disappear, 20 minutes later

    • by NetNed (955141)
      They predicted the same thing this last summer, though it was only for a week. They said that the northern light would be visible much further south then normal. Was in northern Michigan and saw nothing in the week that I was there, even setting a alarm to wake up at times they said the lights would be visible.

      Was a little maddening since I had told others that they would be visible.
      • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

        If you were in a moderately sized city you'd never see it.

        We get aurora on a regular basis here in Anchorage (southeast Alaska), but the city lights (300k people) drown out all but the strongest aurora.

        You might have been able to see one if you had been out in a field in the middle of nowhere, but if you were anywhere near a big city, forget it.

  • Having lived in interior Alaska my entire life, I can say that the northern lights are one of the least interesting large scale natural events out there. Compared to something like a nice sunset, torrential rain, or even a clear starry night, it's really not exciting. The photographs you can find about them are usually rather long exposure times, and even on the "best" nights what you see with your naked eye is no more than a green haze.

    Then again, fireworks or flashing lights don't excite me either. Mayb
    • by MachDelta (704883)

      Depends on how close to a metro area you are. In most cities the light pollution drowns out most of the northern lights (aside from that green haze), but on a clear night in the countryside the northern lights are stunningly awesome.

      Having lived in Canada my entire life (and never within 100mi of the border), the northern lights are one of my favourite natural phenomenon.

      • I live in Alaska about 30 minutes from Anchorage. Unfortunately I am in a downtown area of a town and have a nice big and bright Fred Myers parking lot 400 yards away. It is my second year in Alaska and have yet to see them. When I go on vacation in the summer it never gets dark enough to see them. When it does it is freezing and winter outside already.

    • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

      Compared to something like a nice sunset, torrential rain, or even a clear starry night, it's really not exciting.

      I hope you realize someone who lives in south Florida would likely hold the exact opposite position.

      It's nothing to you, but that doesn't mean it's nothing to everybody else. I find snow to be the least interesting large scale natural event myself, yet people in Mississippi scream for joy when they get snow for Christmas.

      You should probably get a little perspective, and think about what people who have never seen such things might think.

  • The sun had shown a few sunspots last week... but it isn't doing anything this week.

    Space Weather [spaceweather.com]

  • It could snow tomorrow. It could rain tomorrow. The sun was supposed to enter a period of high activity in the past two years [nasa.gov] and it doesn't appear to be coming around to it anytime soon.
    Bogus filler article. One would expect that we would be grazed by a CME and have low latitude aurorae in the near future but this simply states that it could happen.

  • In the Northern hemisphere it's Aurora Borealis. In the Southern hemisphere it's Aurora Australis. What's it called when it hits the lower latitudes closer to the Equator?
    • by IceFoot (256699)

      Well, I suppose we could call it Aurora Equatorialis.

    • by ls671 (1122017) *

      Aurora Boreaustralis.

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @08:11PM (#34705428) Homepage

      In the Northern hemisphere it's Aurora Borealis. In the Southern hemisphere it's Aurora Australis. What's it called when it hits the lower latitudes closer to the Equator?

      An acid trip.

    • by Kentari (1265084)
      Either still Aurora Borealis or Aurora Australis or just Aurora, as it is called when discussing the phenomenon in general. Even during the record breaking geomagnetic storms of 1859 (observations as far south as Hawaii, Cuba, Mexico) and 1989 (Texas) it did not reach the equator. There is little point in coining a new name for something that has never occured before and hopefully never will. The visual show would be very impressive and I wouldn't want to miss it, but the damage to the electrical grid and o
  • So if enough people talk about this, there shall be one

    Why nobody come up with technology to restore the north pole, force the northern light back ?

    The north pole is changing! Every things is changing, Climate is changing ????

  • recently discovered tropical plants, named triffids, are being the new hot trend all across America and Europe.
  • Redundant (Score:4, Insightful)

    by riverat1 (1048260) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @08:35PM (#34705672)

    Couldn't this be posted every 11 years as the solar cycle ramps up towards its peak?

  • Science Fiction (Score:3, Informative)

    by jasnw (1913892) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @09:25PM (#34706018)
    This article is just so much fluff and nonsense wrapped around a little factual info. I've been in the business of space weather since the early 1970s, and this kind of sky-is-falling stuff flares up towards the front end of each solar cycle and then dies off as the sky remains stubbornly in place. Yes, we're headed into a time of increased activity, but so slowly that we may be in for a real "dud" solar cycle. Unless things start picking up soon, we may be lucky to see aurora as far south as Oregon. That said, everything could change completely in a few months. The point is that the kind of prediction made in TFA is impossible to make at this point in the cycle, and to make a big deal out of a completely unfounded prediction is both bad science and very unprofessional. This is not the fault of the poor fellow mentioned in TFA (Joe Kunches, whom I know), but of the flack who wrote this thing.
  • by martin-boundary (547041) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @09:41PM (#34706148)
    So could also a catastrophic geomagnetic reversal(*).

    (*) The Australian Tourist Board is currently funding feasibility studies in order to increase the number of visitors to the southern (soon to be renamed "northern") hemisphere.

  • The Day of The Triffids started?

  • I thought NASA was at one point worried that two different cycles of the sun were going to hit at the same time. I also thought they had been saying that the low cycle was unusually long. Which made them worry about how far it could snap back in the other direction. Kind of like a rubber band or how no tremors for long periods make earthquakes worse because they don't let off that energy and instead store it and suddenly release it.

    As long as we don't have a repeat of 1859 then I am ok with whatever happens

  • Geomagnetic storms cause DC ground currents in power grid transformers. The currents magnetically saturate the transformer cores and result in both overheating of the power system equipment and power quality problems that affect end user equipment. In the last round of geomagnetic storms (late 1980's to early 1990's) power grid transformers were damaged as far south as New Jersey. One fix discussed at that time was to switch nonlinear resistors into the transformer ground connections to limit the DC curr

  • If the storms are strong enough to fry a few com-sats and electric grids. The 1859 super-storm would have seriously tested our technology. The only significant use of electric grids was the early telegraphs then.

Brain fried -- Core dumped

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