Weather Blog

Northern Lights turn region's skies green for St. Patrick's Day

Northern Lights turn region's skies green for St. Patrick's Day
Photo of the Northern Lights as seen from Picnic Point in Edmonds early on the morning of March 17, 2015. (Photo courtesy: Julia Kelley)

Surprise!

A bit of a sneaky and severe solar storm hit the planet last night, bringing a show of the Northern Lights in the wee hours of St. Patrick's Day morning.

The photo above was taken by Julia Kelley who went down to Picnic Point Beach last night to catch some fresh air and relax.

"And as I parked my car along the beachside, I noticed some unusual lights in the sky that seemed of a faint green, but in kind of a streamy-layout," she wrote. "So of course, I knew that my camera had a better night vision than I had, so I quickly drove back home, grabbed my camera and my tripod, and headed back to the beach. Sure enough, it was the northern lights. This was the first time I had ever seen them in person. And they sure were beautiful."

Holly Davison and Michael Canfield also were up late and caught the aurora. Their photos are in the embedded photo gallery.

Greg Johnson at SkunkBayWeather.com also caught the Northern Lights on his web cameras.

Check it out!

And Eddie Murdock got this video from Anacortes:



According to the Associated Press, two blasts of magnetic plasma left the sun on Sunday, combined and arrived on Earth about 15 hours earlier and much stronger than expected, said Thomas Berger, director of the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado.

Here is the rest of their coverage on the solar storm, courtesy AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein:


This storm ranks a 4, called severe, on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's 1-to-5 scale for geomagnetic effects. It is the strongest solar storm to blast Earth since the fall of 2013. It's been nearly a decade since a level 5 storm, termed extreme, has hit Earth.

Forecasters figured it would come late Tuesday night into Wednesday morning; instead, it arrived just before 10 a.m. EDT. They had forecast it to be a level 1.

"It's significantly stronger than expected," Berger said. Forecasters had predicted a glancing blow instead of dead-on hit. Another theory is that the combination of the two storms made it worse, but it's too early to tell if that's so, he said.

The storm seemed to be weakening slightly, but that may not continue, and it could last all day, officials said. It has the potential to disrupt power grids but only temporarily. It also could cause degradation of the global positioning system, so tracking maps and locators may not be as precise as normal.

Often these types of storms come with bursts of radiation that can affect satellite operations, but this one has not, Berger said.

But the most noticeable effect is usually considered a positive. The Aurora Borealis or northern lights that usually can be viewed only in the far north will dip south, so more people should be able to enjoy the colorful sky show. Forecasters were not sure just how far south it would be visible.

Forecasters said early Tuesday, before sunrise, auroras were already seen in the northern tier of the U.S., such as Washington state, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Space Weather branch chief Brent Gordon said if the storm effects continued through Tuesday evening, there was a "very strong possibility" that the northern lights could be seen as far south as the middle United States, even Tennessee and Oklahoma. That also means much of Russia and northern Europe, as far south as central Germany and Poland, had the potential for the sky show.

The sky has to be clear of clouds but the crescent moon will appear small enough it shouldn't interfere with viewing of the aurora is in the sky, Gordon said.

Northern Lights peek out over Northwest

Northern Lights peek out over Northwest
Photo of Northern Lights on 15 second film exposure as seen from Mukilteo on Feb. 23, 2015. (Photo: Liem Bahneman)

It was a bit of a surprise considering there wasn't much solar flare activity but the Northern Lights made a faint appearance over Western Washington Monday night.

2 routine events combine for spectacular scene over Canadian skies

2 routine events combine for spectacular scene over Canadian skies
Photo of a "FallStreak" cloud spotted over Surrey, B.C. at sunrise on Feb. 22, 2015. (Photo courtesy: Zora Fernandez)

Those who were up early enough Sunday morning in Surrey, B.C. and happened to look up were treated to a spectacular scene in the heavens that looks like something straight out of the imagination of a futuristic Hollywood alien blockbuster film.

In actuality, it was the combination of two rather routine events that just happened to have impeccable timing:

A sunrise (one for the ages on its own) …and a plane descending through a solid, stable cloud layer.

Rare, undulating clouds enchant visitors in Grand Teton

Rare, undulating clouds enchant visitors in Grand Teton
This photo taken Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015, and provided by the Grand Teton National Park, shows an unusual cloud formation across the summit of the Grand Teton in this view from the park's headquarters campus at Moose, Wyo. (AP Photo/Grand Teton National Park, Jackie Skaggs)
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - A bizarre sheet of wispy clouds undulating over the Teton Range enchanted tourists and even veteran employees of Grand Teton National Park.

Drivers stopped along the park's main highway Thursday morning to gaze in awe and shoot photos of the rare phenomenon hovering over Grand Teton mountain. At 13,775 feet above sea level, the Grand Teton is the highest point in the Teton Range.

Oregon dust storm now blamed for 'milky rain' in Eastern Washington

Oregon dust storm now blamed for 'milky rain' in Eastern Washington
Photo of a dirty, milky substance that has fallen on cars outside the National Weather Service office in Spokane, Wash. on Feb. 6, 2015. (Photo courtesy: National Weather Service)


The mystery surrounding a white, milky rain that fell across Eastern Washington and parts of Oregon and Idaho Friday has a new theory, although I'd call it more of a tweak of the previous theory.

The event coated vehicles and windows in more than 15 cities, including Spokane, the Tri-Cities, and Hermiston, Oregon. Initial thoughts of the source originating as volcanic ash from a distant eruption or debris blown from summer wildfire-scarred terrain were quickly disproven.

This snowman will help put Alaska's massive storm in perspective

This snowman will help put Alaska's massive storm in perspective
This Sunday, March 2, 2014 photo shows a giant snowman created by Greg Novak in Gilman, Minn. (AP Photo/ St. Cloud, Jason Wachter)

With all the hype over the big storm off Alaska's (far) west coast and the talk of the impending arctic doom and gloom heading toward the Midwest this week being blamed on this storm, you might think the photo above is current -- or a forecast of how much snow is about to fall out there.

Well, no. Not quite.

El Nino flaking out on us again? Chances of it forming drop to 58%

El Nino flaking out on us again? Chances of it forming drop to 58%
Yakima River Upper Kittitas County on Nov. 5, 2014 (Photo: Stephanie Hansen)

El Nino may be flaking out on its winter date with us again, but for skiers and snowboarders it'd be akin to having better plans lined up anyway.

The latest word from NOAA is that the odds of El Nino forming this winter are down to 58 percent -- a far cry from the 80 percent chances we had in the early summer.

Forecasts are still indeed for El Nino conditions to develop this winter (better hurry up!) but now we're leaning toward a borderline event that may just barely qualify.

Weather whiplash: Denver drops 40 degrees in 3 hours

Weather whiplash: Denver drops 40 degrees in 3 hours
Snow falls in Denver on Nov. 10, 2014 just a few hours after it was 64°. (Photo courtesy: Daryl Orr, KDVR-TV, Denver)

Days like today are not unheard of in Denver and the Midwest when you've got a massive cold front barreling through... but they're still fun to marvel at.

Check out how residents there kicked off their work week:

Awesome time lapse video shows the power of the desert monsoon

Awesome time lapse video shows the power of the desert monsoon
Screen capture off Mike Olbinski's film "Monsoon"

This is one of those times that if you have a large, HD monitor around, go find it and then reload this blog. It'll be worth it.

Mike Olbinski, a fantastic photographer who lives in Arizona, has spent the summer chasing the monsoon storms that wrought towering thunderclouds, vivid lightning, incredible downpours and intense dust storms.