As I write, Earth directed solar wind blows at 559.3 km/second. High speed solar wind is credited to sunspot AR2803 –
Last night, Adrien Mauduit at Night Lights Films captured “Aurora at the Beach”, mesmerizing real time aurora majesty washed in waves tickling a stony beach. Treat yourself to Aurora at the Beach, follow Adrien Mauduit at Night Lights Films. –
Below – screenshot of the current Aurora Oval illustrating the impact of high speed solar wind from AR2308. Centered at true magnetic North rather than geographical North Pole, the Aurora Oval widens or retreats at the command of space weather. Ovation Auroral Forecast – Auroral oval | SpaceWeatherLive.com is my go to aurora resource.
The mind’s eye likes to categorize images based on reference, circumstance and familiarity. Be it dark or daylight skies, we thrive on recognizable predictability. From contrails to crescent moon, ominous storm clouds to constellation Orion, familiar skyscapes fit like comfortable slippers. By virtue of our nature, everything we see is processed according to common knowledge. So what happens when perception defies instinctive categorization? When “I’ve never seen a cloud like that” or “that can’t possibly be an airplane” muddies reflexive comprehension? Void of immediate explanation some ask themselves, is it a UFO?
Ponder this image. How does your mind’s eye categorize eerie concentric circles punctuated with a tilted ascending beam of blue light? Extraterrestrial origin or definable illusion? In December 2009 a failed Russian ballistic missile test created this illusion in skies over Norway. Rings of light stem from spiraling trajectory following third stage missile failure.
UFO? No, it’s a Iridium flare. “Iridium” flare terminology stems from a constellation of communications satellites first launched in 1997 by Iridium Communications. Satellites generally appear as slow moving “stars” to the untrained eye. The original 66 Iridium satellites have been phased out, replaced by second generation SpaceX low orbit installations. That said, for the past 20 years momentary bright flashes occurred up to four times a day when reflective antenna caught sunlight.
From weather balloons, drones, funky clouds, upper atmosphere ice crystals bending light, low orbit satellites to bright magnitude planet Venus, the mind’s eye demands explanation. Is it a UFO? Probably not. 99.9% of the time there’s a perfectly logical explanation.
A closed Canada/U.S. border is no match for invasive plumes of wildfire smoke blanketing the West Coast. For days, stinging brown haze has beset Vancouver, obliterating sunlight, vying with Seattle and Portland for worst air quality in the world. This morning Vancouverites woke to a staggering reality – official ranking as most hazardous air to breathe in the world. Link to worldwide air quality – https://aqicn.org/here/
I’m not crying in my maple syrup or diminishing the plight of countless thousand American lives impacted by the inferno. What I am is alarmed by unprecedented voracity of this disaster. Wildfire season is a fact of life, periodic stretches of regional forest fire smoke settle over Vancouver every few years. What I can’t recall is Vancouver ever having the worst air quality in the world. Nor air so hazardous Canada Post suspends mail delivery, If this is the face of climate disruption, we need to take notice.
Cloud streets are long rows of cumulus cloud oriented parallel to the direction of wind. Cloud streets are a product of convection – rolling waves of rising warm air met by sinking layers of upper atmosphere cold air. Atmospheric science 101 – clouds form when water droplets contained in rising warm air condense on introduction to sinking cold air.
The MODIS instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite captured these cloud streets over the Bering Sea on January 20, 2006. Image via Jesse Allen/ NASA. Read more about this image.
Cloud streets are technically called horizontal convection rolls. Typically observed from satellite eyes above, cloud streets generally form over vast expanses of ocean water. Unique to cloud streets are cloud free zones on either side created by sinking cold air.
Every cloud has a story, explanation and reason for being there. Next time you look up, remind yourself of exquisitely balanced natural forces responsible for life as we know it.
Seems pandemic times directly impact accuracy of extended weather forecasts. Who knew commercial air traffic accounted for 700,000 meteorological reports a day? Few realize commercial airliners collect and relay data on air pressure, humidity, air temperature and wind speed as the fly their route. 50-75% fewer commercial flights a day translates to a huge gap in weather data available to forecasters. One – three day predictions remain relatively accurate. Notable inaccuracy plagues four – fourteen day forecasts.
I doubt spiders come to mind when pondering impacts of global warming at northern latitudes. Climate change has had a profound effect on Arctic Wolf Spiders, nobody cares because spiders are easily dismissed. Fun fact – in terms of biomass, wolf spiders in the Arctic outweigh that of regional wolf populations by 80 – 1. That’s a lot of spiders – thanks to longer, warmer summers they’re getting bigger and producing more offspring.
Nature has a uncanny ability to adapt when challenged with brief periods of climatic change. In 2009 researchers predicted warmer Arctic seasons would boost wolf spider size and numbers. Springtails, their prey of choice are wingless fungi eating hexapods. “Science’s Michael Price explains that springtails subsist on a diet of fungi, which consume decomposing plants and release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. But when wolf spiders keep the springtail population in check, the insects consume less fungus, which triggers faster decomposition of the tundra’s dead plant matter—and more greenhouse gases.” – https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/how-wolf-spiders-evolving-diet-keeping-arctic-cool-180969735/
Science expected dense populations of wolf spiders to initially cannibalize their own, consume anything smaller than themselves while sorting out territory. They thought more wolf spiders meant fewer fungus nibbling springtails, but that hasn’t happened. Seems climate enhanced hoards of wolf spiders developed a taste for their own, ignoring springtails, favouring opportunistic ambushes of smaller spiders.
Science can’t explain why cannibal wolf spiders no longer fancy springtails. It can state as fact – higher springtail populations mean less fungus, slower decomposition of organic material, thus significantly less greenhouse gas released by the process of decomposition. Are cannibal wolf spiders Mother Nature’s way of mitigating the mess we’ve made?
Natural phenomenon needn’t be mysterious. Ponder Aurora Borealis, arguably one of nature’s greatest phenomenon, least mysterious spectacles. Aurora are offspring of space weather, nothing mysterious about that. On May 11, 2020 Earth is expected to cross a fold in the heliospheric current sheet. In less mysterious language – disruption of interplanetary space separating opposing magnetic polarities of Earth and Sun, briefly over riding Earth’s magnetic field, inviting solar energy to temporarily dazzle sky watchers with aurora majesty – consider yourself schooled in solar sector boundary crossing, a space weather basic.
Solar wind is the source of space weather. Just like Earth, the Sun has a magnetic field known as interplanetary magnetic field (IMF). Whipped into spiral rotation, wind driven IMF rotates in one direction dividing into spiral sections pointing to and away from the sun along an ecliptic plane ( direct line between Earth and the Sun). The edge of this swirling mass has a surface separating polarities of planetary and solar magnetism called the heliosphere current sheet.
Earth’s magnetic field points north at the magnetopause (the point of contact between our magnetosphere and the IMF). If the IMF happens to point south at contact the field link causes partial cancellation of Earth’s magnetic field – in other words, opening a temporary door for solar energy to enter our atmosphere. Welcome solar sector boundary crossing – a phenomenon born of high solar wind and coronal mass ejections (CME’s – aka solar flares).
Enough talk, time for dazzling aurora timelapse courtesy Adrian Mauduit at Night Lights Films –
Don’t know about you, but I’d be rubbing my eyes if a upside down rainbow crossed my path. Who knew? Seems weather phenomena has an arsenal of tricks up her sleeve. Technically, upside down doesn’t qualify as rainbow. They’re known as circumzenithal arc or CZA, elite members of the halo family. Whereas rainbows form when light (most commonly sunlight, sometimes bright moonlight ) passes through low atmosphere water droplets, CZA require atmospheric ice crystals and just the right degree of sunlight.