Northern Lights & Another Humid Day

***Watch WISN 12 News at 5, 6, & 10 p.m. for Milwaukee most accurate forecast!***

Thank you for stopping by the Weather Watch 12 blog!  The heat and humidity continued in full force on Tuesday.  Dew points climbed into the middle 70s in Milwaukee…yuck!  We’ll discuss how long the sticky weather will last in this entry. 

But let’s start off with some potentially exciting news.  A rare sight may be visible in southeast Wisconsin the next two nights…the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis.  I can’t remember the last time the Northern Lights were visible in our part of the state, but I do remember seeing them in December of 2006 when I was driving across Iowa on I-80.  If you have never seen them, it is a sight that everyone should see at least once in there life.

If you are wondering how and why the Northern Lights occur you came to the right place.  Here is about the simplest explanation I could find…courtesy of the NWS in Sioux Falls, SD.

The Aurora Borealis (commonly referred to as the Northern Lights) are the result of interactions between the Sun and Earth’s outer atmosphere.  The Aurora Australis is the southern hemisphere counterpart to the Aurora Borealis.

What Causes the Aurora?  The Sun emits electrically-charged particles called ions, which correspondingly move away from the Sun in a stream of plasma (ionized gas) known as the solar wind.  As the plasma comes in contact with the Earth’s magnetic field, the ions will be agitated into moving around the Earth.  Some of the ions become trapped and will consequently interact with the Earth’s ionosphere (an average of 60-80 miles above the surface), causing the ions to glow.  This is the same principal as how a neon sign lights up.  As electrons pass through the neon tubing, they glow, thus producing the light in a neon sign.

The Aurora are constantly changing and moving in streams of light or curtains, because the process of how the Sun’s ionized gas interacts with the Earth’s magnetic field is very dynamic.  Although harmless to life on Earth, the Aurora can cause power disruptions in satellite communications and in radio/TV broadcasts. 

The Space Weather Prediction Center has a number of tools to help forecast if the Northern Lights will be visible.  Below is a map of where they would most likely be seen…this map was valid around 2 p.m. Tuesday.  The orange colors closer to the poles signify a greater likelihood of seeing the beautiful display.  The light blue or purple in our area means a lower chance.  The center of the map is the North Pole.

Forecasting the Northern Lights is very difficult, but if we are going to see them, Tuesday or Wednesday Nights would be the most likely timeframe.  Remember, this is no guarantee!  If they do occur, please take a picture and post it to the U-Local section of WISN.com

If you plan on viewing the POSSIBLE display, keep in mind it is best to move away from city lights.  And with our hazy, partly cloudy, and possibly foggy conditions overnight, viewing may be obstructed. 

The hazy and humid weather will hang around for Wednesday.  Here is the dew point forecast map at 1 p.m. Wednesday.  Notice the dew points of 75 around far southeast Wisconsin!

By Thursday, cooler and less humid weather will finally arrive across the area.  It should stick around through Saturday. 

Have a great day!

Jeremy Nelson

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4 Responses

  1. A lot of inland temps between 86-88 today with dews as high as 75 at times. Highest heat indexes not too far away from 100. Dog days of summer are here and it looks like a lot of barking will be going on all of next week as well.

    • Daniel,

      I’m concerned the ‘ring of fire’ could set up over our area Saturday Night – Tuesday. We’ll watch closely for the chance of more rain(potentially heavy). This will be remembered as a warm summer.

      Jeremy

  2. Pic of northern lights from Denmark (the country, not Wisconsin): http://www.spaceweather.com/submissions/pics/j/Jesper-GrAcnne-aurora-IMG_3193—Version-2_1280876672.jpg

    • That’s awesome…thanks for sharing. FYI…you also posted comment number 1,000 in the blogs history!

      Jeremy

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