And Now, For The Rest of the Story

2012-11-14 20:04:28.000 – Ryan Knapp,  Weather Observer/Meteorologist

Aurora Borealis

Awesome! Spectacular! Stunning! Pretty! Green! – These might sound like the words overheard between Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, but they were also the words used by the summit staff to describe yesterdays Aurora Borealis event. Last nights Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights to some, were some of the most spectacular that I, or anyone on my crew, have seen up on the summit. They had deep colors, spanned the entire horizon, and were giving off so much light that the summit had a greenish hue to it for the entire night. And that’s another thing, they lasted the entire night; not just the few hours like I have seen in the past. And to think that earlier in the week, I didn’t even think we would see anything this shift due to either a weak solar cycle or the weather on/above the summits.

Looking at the Space Weather website on Sunday, there was a mention of a solar flare, but it was heading away from us. So nothing was looking promising. Additionally, a passing cold front was to bring fog, cloudy skies, cold temperatures and winds for Monday and Tuesday. So, it was looking to be a typical summit week. However, when I awoke Tuesday afternoon to get ready for my night shift, Steve (our intern) said the activity level was at a six on Space Weather. I had my doubts but sure enough, it was a six and the NOAA POES website was in agreement. So, activity was on the rise; now, if only the weather would cooperate.

At sunset, we were starting to clear, but the fog seemed to be getting thicker. So our hopes started to decrease that we would see anything. However, an hour after sunset, the fog cleared and skies above were clearing as well. And on the northern horizon, there she was – the Aurora Borealis waving to us from the sky. I went down and grabbed everyone and out we went. When we first got out there, it was breezy and temperatures were in the teens. As we sat there for over an hour, temperatures shot up to the 20s and winds went light and variable. And with the clean, dry air in place, we could see infinity to our north. Everything aligned just right to provide us the best conditions to take in this free show in the sky.

Now, while I had other work related duties to do over the course of the night, every time I went outside to do our hourly weather observations, I was shooting photos. As a result, I was able to put an album up of the best images from the night on our Facebook Page. You don’t need to have a Facebook account to see them, just click on the link above and you can view the images that were posted. While tonight isn’t looking as good to seem them, fear not because from what I have been reading, the sun is continuing to hit its solar maximum meaning more Auroras will be ahead in the coming months. So if you missed them, just be patient; you will get another chance.


Ryan Knapp,  Weather Observer/Meteorologist

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