Recent strong solar storms, aurora displays likely caused by coronal holes

Recent strong solar storms, aurora displays likely caused by ‘coronal holes’
Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 12:11 PM AKDT|Updated: Mar. 31, 2023 at 1:12 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The longer daylight hours many Alaskans enjoy this time of year comes with a tradeoff —shorter amount of time at night to experience the wonders of the northern lights.

It’s an added bonus when the entire state and northern parts of the Lower 48 get in on the action like they did last week.

The perception in this cold season, however, is that these strong displays have been occurring with greater frequency. As with anything else in the atmosphere and universe, it’s never one total thing, nor is it very simple.

Simply put, whether aurora occurs or not depends on sunspots, which launch flares of electromagnetic energy through the solar system.

The size and scope of those spots help space weather scientists determine their strength and potential electro-communication impacts on our planet in addition to the levels of aurora that could be seen.

What is amazing about last week’s solar storm seen over much of North America is that it was caused by coronal holes, which can be enormous — some are more than 20 times the size of the earth. The recent two coronal holes have been found along the sun equators, a place that can send out the most energy all around.

Lastly, it’s all about timing. Alaskans statistically see more aurora events around the times of the equinox, compared to the winter solstice in December.

Aurora month 2023 will end with high solar activity forecast through the weekend.