Northern Lights hit 100-year low point: Finnish researchers

Sep 28, 2010
Swedes watch a display of Aurora Borealis in Ostby in 2006. The Northern Lights have petered out during the second half of this decade, becoming rarer than at any other time in more than a century, the Finnish Meteorological Institute said Tuesday.

The Northern Lights have petered out during the second half of this decade, becoming rarer than at any other time in more than a century, the Finnish Meteorological Institute said Tuesday.

The Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, generally follow an 11-year "solar cycle", in which the frequency of the phenomena rises to a maximum and then tapers off into a minimum and then repeats the cycle.

"The was officially in 2008, but this minimum has been going on and on and on," researcher Noora Partamies told AFP.

"Only in the past half a year have we seen more activity, but we don't really know whether we're coming out of this minimum," she added.

The Northern Lights, a blaze of coloured patterns in the northern skies, are triggered by solar winds crashing into the earth and being drawn to the magnetic poles, wreaking havoc on in the parts of the atmosphere known as the and .

So a dimming of the Northern Lights is a signal that activity on the sun which causes solar winds, such as solar flares and sun sports, is also quieting down.

For researchers like Partamies, it is the first time they can observe through a network of modern observation stations what happens to this when it becomes as badly disrupted as it is now.

"We're waiting to see what happens, is the next maximum going to be on time, is it going to be late, is it going to be huge?" Partamies said.

During the cycle's peak in 2003, the station on Norway's Svalbard island near the North Pole, showed that the were visible almost every single night of the auroral season, which excludes the nightless summer months.

That figure has fallen to less than 50y percent, while the southernmost station, situated in southern Finland, has been registering only two to five instances annually for the past few years.

Explore further: Historic climate data provided by Mediterranean seabed sediments

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The Sun Loses its Spots

Jul 24, 2007

While sidewalks crackle in the summer heat, NASA scientists are keeping a close eye on the sun. It is almost spotless, a sign that the Sun may have reached solar minimum. Scientists are now watching for the ...

Canadian space agency beams northern lights over Web

Sep 20, 2010

Skywatchers can turn their gaze to a computer for a glimpse of the northern lights: the Canadian Space Agency on Monday launched an online observatory streaming the aurora borealis live over the Internet.

Northern Lights in the classroom

Sep 01, 2010

A new model created by Lancaster University space scientist Dr Jim Wild is bringing the experience of the Northern Lights into the classroom.

Aurora alert: The Sun is waking up (w/ Video)

Aug 02, 2010

Sky viewers might get to enjoy some spectacular Northern Lights, or aurorae, tomorrow. After a long slumber, the Sun is waking up. Early Sunday morning, the Sun's surface erupted and blasted tons of plasma ...

Recommended for you

New detector sniffs out origins of methane

7 hours ago

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, second only to carbon dioxide in its capacity to trap heat in Earth's atmosphere for a long time. The gas can originate from lakes and swamps, natural-gas pipelines, deep-sea ...

The tides they are a changin'

12 hours ago

Scientists from the University of Southampton have found that ocean tides have changed significantly over the last century at many coastal locations around the world.

Lightning plus volcanic ash make glass

Mar 03, 2015

In their open-access paper for Geology, Kimberly Genareau and colleagues propose, for the first time, a mechanism for the generation of glass spherules in geologic deposits through the occurrence of volcan ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

LariAnn
1 / 5 (3) Sep 28, 2010
Would seem to make sense that during a century-class solar minimum that the aurora borealis would also hit a century-class minimum. No real news here . . .

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.