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Weather forecasting and analysis, space and historic events, climate information

1:00 PM | Northern lights, an update on the Iceland volcano, and mysterious lights from the Napa earthquake

Paul Dorian


Northern Lights aurora_WY [Northern lights earlier today as seen in Devil's Tower, Wyoming; courtesy]

A coronal mass ejection (CME) reached the Earth’s upper atmosphere early today sparking bright auroras around the North and South Poles and in high latitudes. In fact, reports of northern lights have poured in today from across the northern US including such states as Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin, Idaho, North Dakota and Washington. The CME that instigated today’s display was launched toward Earth on August 22nd. According to “”, the solar wind speed did not change much when the slow-moving CME arrived. However, the storm cloud was still “effective” because it contained a south-pointing magnetic field that opened a crack in Earth’s magnetosphere. Solar wind is pouring in to fuel the on-going display. High latitude sky watchers should remain on alert tonight for auroras as solar wind conditions continue to favor geomagnetic activity.

aurora [NOAA POES satellite data shows the extent of this morning’s "statistical aurora oval" well down into the mid-latitudes; courtesy NOAA Space Prediction Center].

Iceland Volcano Earthquakes are rocking Iceland’s Bardarbungo volcano, adding to concerns that magna movements may trigger an eruption that could hinder air traffic. Two earthquakes measuring over 5.0 shook the volcano under the vast Vatnajokull glacier earlier today and over 500 quakes have hit the area since midnight. Scientists say that 50 million cubic meters of molten rock has moved in a 24 hour period. If it continues to head north, it could link up with the Askja system and trigger a large eruption. In 2010, Iceland's Eyjafjallajokul volcano erupted and sparked a week of international aviation chaos. Some 100,000 flights were cancelled after aviation officials closed Europe's air space for five days out of fears that volcanic ash could harm jet engines.

2010_iceland_volcano [The ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajokull eruption in 2010 created a major disruption for air travel]

Mysterious Lights Mysterious flashes of light in the sky were reported by several people during last Sunday’s magnitude 6.0 earthquake in the Napa region of northern California. Witnesses said the strange phenomenon looked like lightning and similar flashes of light have been reported in earthquakes around the world from Japan to Peru. One scientist called this phenomenon “earthquake lights” and suggested they are a consequence of the stresses building up deep below the earth that cause an electric current to flow to the surface and burst through the earth. This typically happens before or during an earthquake. Most reports said there were one to two seconds between the light flashes. Research continues in this area - many seismologists do not believe such things are real.