A cold, showery day and a brush with northern lights


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Here we are basking in the glory of mid-October transitions.

The weather Wednesday — and really, the last few days — more closely resembles November weather in Portland. We had many record ties and some record-breaking low temperatures Tuesday morning with reports of frost and thinly iced puddles.

Record lows from Tuesday

Wednesday isn’t bitterly cold like Tuesday but it is nonetheless colder than normal and damp. Showers will resume following that cold front that passed through Tuesday night. Snow levels in the morning drop to 3,500- 4,000 feet. Meanwhile, light snow accumulations are possible over mountain passes. 

As the day progress, we do have a few minutes here and there when the sun will peek out. Showers will diminish later in the day as temps peak in the mid-50s.

The normal high/low for Portland in mid-October is 66/48 degrees. The normal high/low for mid-November is 54/41 degrees.

Did you catch the northern lights earlier this week?

Will we see the northern lights again?

You can follow the aurora forecast by visiting the University of Alaska, Fairbanks Geophysical Institute.

The best places to view aurora are high northern latitudes during the winter in Alaska, Canada, and Scandinavia. Furthermore, there is quite strong (but poorly understood) tendency for auroral activity to be stronger at equinox than it is at solstice. This so-called “Russell-McPherron effect” means that the statistical likelihood of seeing aurora over interior Alaska is roughly twice as high at equinox as it is at solstice. Combined with a slight preference for better weather in spring than in fall, this means that late February to early April are usually considered the best aurora viewing months in Alaska.

To see aurora you need clear and dark sky. During very large auroral events, the aurora may be seen throughout the U.S. and Europe, but these events are rare. During an extreme event in 1958, the aurora was visible from Mexico City.

During average activity levels, auroral displays will be overhead at high northern or southern latitudes. Places like Fairbanks, Alaska; Dawson City, Yukon; Yellowknife, NWT; Gillam, Manitoba; the southern tip of Greenland; Reykjavik, Iceland; Tromsø, Norway; and the northern coast of Siberia all offer a good chance to view the aurora overhead.

In North Dakota, Michigan, Quebec, and central Scandinavia, you might be able to see aurora on the northern horizon when activity picks up a little. In the southern hemisphere the aurora has to be fairly active before it can be seen from places other than Antarctica. Hobart, Tasmania, and the southern tip of New Zealand have about the same chance of seeing aurora as Vancouver, BC, South Dakota, Michigan, Scotland, or St. Petersburg, Russia. Fairly strong auroral activity is required for aurora viewing in those locations.


Space weather & beautiful optics

Space Weather describes the variations in the space environment between the sun and Earth. In particular Space Weather describes the phenomena that impact systems and technologies in orbit and on Earth. Space weather can occur anywhere from the surface of the sun to the surface of Earth. As a space weather storm leaves the sun, it passes through the corona and into the solar wind. When it reaches Earth, it energizes Earth’s magnetosphere and accelerates electrons and protons down to Earth’s magnetic field lines where they collide with the atmosphere and ionosphere, particularly at high latitudes. Each component of space weather impacts a different technology. A description of some of the space weather impacts can be found at Space Weather Impacts.


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