John Wheeler: The Northern Lights have been active lately

Aurora do not cause changes to our weather patterns.

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FARGO — Aurora displays happen when bursts of high-energy particles from the sun reach Earth's outer atmosphere, where the resulting reaction knocks loose an electron and a photon from gas molecules. These now charged and glowing particles become aligned along the Earth's magnetic field, which is why they are usually concentrated in the sky toward the north/northeast.

The Northern Lights have been active the past several weeks because the sun, itself, has been active lately. Solar storms, in general, exhibit an approximately 11-year cycle, going from inactive to active and back to inactive. We notice aurora more when they happen in fall and spring because the nights are longer, but the weather is not terribly cold. As far as is known, aurora do not cause changes to our weather patterns, and any change in the weather when aurora are seen is merely coincidental.

Related Topics: WEATHER
John Wheeler is Chief Meteorologist for WDAY, a position he has had since May of 1985. Wheeler grew up in the South, in Louisiana and Alabama, and cites his family's move to the Midwest as important to developing his fascination with weather and climate. Wheeler lived in Wisconsin and Iowa as a teenager. He attended Iowa State University and achieved a B.S. degree in Meteorology in 1984. Wheeler worked about a year at WOI-TV in central Iowa before moving to Fargo and WDAY..
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