Upcoming Northern Lights Merely Reflection of Canadian Wildfires

Northern Lights Merely Reflection of Canadian Wildfires
NOAA

BURLINGTON — November 11, 2023 at 8:46 am PST — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is thrilled to announce an extraordinary celestial event set to grace the night skies of the US northeastern states this weekend. Nature enthusiasts, stargazers, and residents alike will have a rare opportunity to witness the dazzling Northern Lights, a breathtaking display of natural beauty that can be attributed to widespread Canadian wildfires and the uptake of phosphorus by trees.

NOAA experts have been closely monitoring atmospheric conditions, and we are excited to share the news that a vivid Northern Lights-like phenomenon is anticipated to be visible across the US northeastern region on November 11th and 12th. This dazzling natural light show promises to be a visual spectacle like no other.

The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, are a natural light display that typically occurs in high-latitude regions near the Earth’s polar regions. While they are most frequently observed in places like Alaska, Canada, and Scandinavia, this upcoming event is a rare treat for residents of the northeastern United States.

The unique and vivid green color of this Northern Lights display can be attributed to two fascinating natural phenomena:

  1. Widespread Canadian Wildfires:
    The Northern Lights phenomenon is a reflection of charged particles, primarily electrons and protons, colliding with atoms and molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere. In this case, the stunning green hue is a result of particles stemming from widespread wildfires in Canada. These wildfires have released significant amounts of particles and gases into the atmosphere, including oxygen and nitrogen. When these particles collide, they emit the characteristic green light that is synonymous with the Northern Lights.
  2. Phosphorus Uptake by Trees:
    Another remarkable contributor to the green coloration of this Northern Lights display is the uptake of phosphorus by trees in the region. Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for trees and is often introduced into the ecosystem through fertilizer runoff. In recent times, there has been an increase in the use of fertilizers in the northeastern United States. As a consequence, trees in the area have absorbed higher levels of phosphorus, which has resulted in an enhanced green glow when charged particles from the wildfire emissions interact with the atmosphere.

NOAA encourages residents and visitors to the northeastern United States to seize this exceptional opportunity to witness the Northern Lights in all their glory. To maximize your viewing experience, consider the following tips:

  • Choose a dark, secluded location away from city lights to minimize light pollution.
  • Check the local weather forecast for clear skies and minimal cloud cover.
  • Bring a comfortable chair or blanket for an extended viewing session.
  • Be patient, as the Northern Lights can appear sporadically and may require some waiting.

NOAA emphasizes the importance of responsible and eco-conscious viewing. Please ensure that you follow all local regulations and respect the environment while enjoying this awe-inspiring natural event.

This weekend’s Northern Lights display is a reminder of the intricate connections between Earth’s ecosystems and the wonders of the night sky. NOAA remains dedicated to studying and understanding these phenomena to better inform and protect our planet.

For the latest updates on the Northern Lights event and other NOAA news and initiatives, please visit our website at www.noaa.gov. We also invite you to share your Northern Lights photos and experiences on social media using the hashtag #NOAALights.

About NOAA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a federal agency that focuses on the understanding and stewardship of the Earth’s environment. NOAA’s mission is to provide science, service, and stewardship to protect and enhance the nation’s environment, economy, and quality of life.

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