Auroras In Florida For First Time In Decades
Forecasters did not see this one coming; another sign of our weakening magnetic field strength.
On March 23-24, during a surprise severe G4 geomagnetic storm–the most intense in 6 years–auroras spread into the United States as far south as Florida.
Nothing obvious caused the storm. There was no strong solar wind stream, no direct hit from a Coronal Mass Ejection. NOAA scientists think it may have been the result of the ripple effect of a near-miss CME on March 23. But all that’s known for sure is just how depleted our planet’s defensive shield has gotten–in line with its migrating magnetic poles/low solar activity.
On March 24, auroras descended all the way to Florida, which hasn’t happened in some 20 years.
Bill Williams captured the display from the Chiefland Astro Village:
“My 26-minute exposure taken to capture the Winter Milky Way showed an unusual red glow,” said Williams.
“As far as I know, at 29.4 degrees north latitude, we are the farthest south this aurora has been witnessed … [This] is the first I have seen here in Florida since 2003 and 1989!”
Most auroras are green, yet when auroras spread to low latitudes, the sightings are almost always red, explains Dr Tony Phillips of spaceweather.com. Ordinary green auroras come from oxygen atoms some 150km above Earth’s surface. Red auroras are also caused by oxygen, but much higher up, between 150km and 500km.
This below image, shot the same night by Dean Cosgrove of Curtis, Nebraska, illustrates the red-on-green altitude structure. From far-south locales such as Florida, the greens are eclipsed by the northern horizon, leaving the higher reds to dominate.
Auroras from last week’s unexpected storm sank into America’s lower latitudes, sightings were noted in New Mexico (+32.8N), North Carolina (+36.5N), Missouri (+40.2N), Virginia (+38.7N), Colorado (+40.4N), , Nebraska (+41N) and North Carolina (+36.2N), and California (+39.7N). In fact, more than half of all U.S. states were in range of the display.
“For about 30 minutes we watched as auroras danced and simmered in the sky above Yellowstone National Park,” said Michael Underwood, who photographed the stunning light show from the Mammoth Hot Springs at latitude +45 degrees:
Not every illumination in the sky was the aurora borealis. There was also STEVE (Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement).
Alan Birdsell photographed the phenomenon from Spokane, Washington:
“This was the first time I have seen a severe geomagnetic storm here in Spokane,” said Birdsell. “It was all a very profound and surreal experience.”
STEVE is not the same as auroras. The phenomenon is caused by hot 3,000 C (5,400 F) ribbons of gas flowing through Earth’s magnetosphere at speeds exceeding 6 km/s (13,000 mph), but, similarly to auroras, appear during strong geomagnetic storms.
On March 23, STEVE was spotted over some unusual locales, including South Dakota, Washington State, Idaho, Montana, and Scotland, following a sudden shift in the magnetic fields around Earth (the BsubZ tipped south).
As again explained by Dr Phillips, south-pointing magnetic fields opened a crack in our planet’s magnetosphere: “Earth’s ‘shields were down’ for almost 24 hours, allowing solar wind to penetrate and the storm to build to category G4,” he writes.
Nighttime shinings weren’t confined to the U.S., of course, or even the Northern Hemisphere. Naked eye auroras were dancing about the skies above Australia and New Zealand, too, known here as ‘aurora australis’ or ‘Southern Lights’.
Note the fantastic colors captured in the below video, which was shot in Franklin, Tasmania on March 23:
And here’s footage from New Zealand:
Signs of the times.
Cold Records Continue To Fall Across U.S.
The U.S.–and indeed much of Canada–is struggling to shake off winter 2022-23 with the West, in particular, remaining firmly within its icy grip.
A myriad more low temperature records were felled over the past 24-hours:
And looking ahead, we can expected a host more to be toppled–in some case slain–as additional rounds of polar cold descend:
Likewise, the snow will also continue to prove unrelenting for many, even well into April:
Europe Set For Spring Freeze
Weather models are doubling down on Europe’s potentially crop-wrecking outbreak of Arctic air.
Due first is a little taster, due to hit this week (see below). Note the exceptional chill in Scandinavia. Temperatures here will rival the record-breaking lows posted over the weekend, such as Finland’s -37.5C (-35.5F) — the latest-ever date for such a low reading.
Then next week, even as the calendar reads April, this is what Europe has in store; that is, something of a return to winter with widespread temperature anomalies of -14C below the norm and heavy snow:
To stave off the unseasonable freeze–and as also seen increasingly in recent years–we can expect mitigating measures to be implemented across the continent’s vineyards and orchards, such as the infamous ‘frost fires’:
Australia’s Polar Outbreak
Australia has been no stranger to anomalous, record-breaking cold in recent years, as documented here. And it looks like that trend will continue into autumn 2023.
Before March is through, the southern half of the country is forecast temperature anomalies of some 16C below the seasonal norm, particularly in the west:
The eyeing further ahead, the real fun is currently forecast to hit early April.
Latest GFS runs foresee a powerful mass of Antarctic air sweeping the majority of the Aussie continent commencing April 5:
This system could even bring early-season snow to the country’s higher elevations.
Stay tuned for updates.
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