DISCUSSION: In Norway last week, close to the 70th parallel (and so far north that the sun won't appear again in the sky until January 15th), photographer and aurora tour guide Marianne Bergli captured perhaps one of the most colorful and picturesque stills of 2017; a dazzling green and pink aurora above a snow-capped island chain.
Most auroras are green; a glow caused by energetic particles released from the Sun striking free oxygen atoms anywhere from 60 to 175 miles (about 100 km to 300 km) above the Earth's surface. The beautiful pinks, however, reveal something else: when energetic particles penetrate farther below into Earth's atmosphere, they can collide with nitrogen molecules below 60 miles (100 km) and give off a pink color.
As the Sun radiates, it emits energetic particles in every direction from the Sun's upper atmosphere, or corona; this stream of particles is commonly known as the solar wind, and the increase in speed of its particles can be directly linked with regions in the Sun's upper atmosphere known as coronal holes (where open magnetic field lines in the Sun's upper atmosphere allow particles to more easily stream out.) It is this faster stream of solar wind particles that interact with Earth's upper atmosphere to create such wonderfully vivid auroras.
The solar wind's increase in speed is shown by three-day NOAA's Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) data, which you can find here.
The solar wind velocity began to increase on December 17th and passed the 500 km/s threshold at about 5:00am EST, a threshold that would make for an elevated solar wind.
Other than solar wind activity, the surface of the Sun is blank and shows no sunspots - this is our 99th day without sunspots in 2017 and the most days without sunspots in a year since 2009.
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© 2017 Meteorologist Chris Stubenrauch
Marianne's Heaven on Earth Aurora Chaser Tours. N.p., n.d. Web. http://www.chasethelighttours.co.uk. Accessed 18 December 2017.
SDO / Solar Dynamics Observatory. N.p., n.d. Web. https://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov. Accessed 18 December 2017.
Recognizing the Importance of Atmospheric Ozone within Earth's Atmosphere (credit: NASA)
DISCUSSION: There is no question that one of the more important aspects of Earth's atmosphere is the presence of atmospheric ozone. Atmospheric ozone is a good portion of what allows Earth's atmosphere to more effectively filter dangerous ultra-violet A and ultra-violet B radiation which emanates from the Sun. During periods of time in which the global thickness and relative concentration of atmospheric ozone is reduced, this limits the ability of Earth's ozone layer to more effectively protect people and life on Earth from the more dangerous and harmful rays which emerge from the surface of Earth's Sun. Through studying the time-lapse of Earth's ozone layer evolution between 1979 and 2016, you can observe a clear trend defined by some marginal variation in the global concentration of Earth's ozone layer and the size of the "ozone holes" which exist near the top of Earth's atmosphere. There is no debate that these "gaps" in Earth's ozone layer have had notable impacts on rates of terminal illnesses such as cancer. The link for the aforementioned time-lapse video of Earth's ozone time-lapsed evolution can be found within the link included here ( https://twitter.com/twitter/statuses/941705324515512324).
The more exciting news concerning research and studies pertaining to Earth's ozone situation is that NASA just launched (i.e., on the morning of 15 December) a brand-new state-of-the-art satellite-based instrument which will specifically measure and investigate details pertaining to Sun's influence of Earth's atmospheric ozone "shield." There is no debate that this brand-new NASA-based project should certainly help to shed very useful information on how the Sun influences atmospheric ozone concentration, behavior, coverage, and more. To learn more about this particular story and other specifics, click on the following link.
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©2017 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz