GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV)- The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, was spotted across multiple states Monday Night, some more luminous than others. Overall, the best places to see this spectacle of light would have been away from areas with high light pollution and from a higher vantage point.
But how does it form and what does it mean when its referred to as a storm?
The sun occasionally releases plasma mass called a coronal mass ejection, or CME for short. The highly charged protons and electrons from the CME travel through space due to solar winds and eventually arrive at Earth’s magnetic field, causing a geomagnetic storm. The magnetic field is the weakest at the poles, so this phenomenon is mainly contained in higher latitudes.
In some instances, these events can be very strong and cause the ring of light to drift farther South into the middle latitudes, where we are located. Just like hurricanes, tornados and, winter storms, these geomagnetic storms have a classification scale.
This scale is called the Planetary K-Index, which helps measure the geomagnetic activity in Earth’s atmosphere. Normally, this value is less than 5, when the northern lights are dim in the the northern sky and not able to be seen. As the Kp value gets higher, the Northern Lights become more luminous, but the impacts on spacecraft, radio signals, and power grids also increase. This scale ranges from G1 (A Kp index of 5) to G5 (A Kp index of 9). A full detailed description of how impactful each level is can be found on the Space Weather Prediction Center Website.
Monday night’s spectacle reached near 7 on the Kp Index scale, which put it as a strong G3 storm. Unfortunately, it appears that was it;s peak strength, as forecasts for Tuesday through Thursday night put it at G1 and will not reach Northeast Wisconsin.
Here is a slideshow of photos sent to us by Local 5’s Ryan Kudish taken in Shawano, WI, as well as WJMN Chief Meteorologist Tom Kippen in Marquette, MI. The first photo was taken using the Night Mode feature to capture more detail.
Any photos can be uploaded to the Storm Team 5 App.