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UPDATE: Solar Flare Erupts on Sun, Largest in Years / Video - What Washington / Oregon Coast Can Expect

Published 12/14/23 at 6:55 p.m. - Updated 12/15/23
B
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Massive Solar Flare Erupts on Sun, Largest in Years - What Washington / Oregon Coast Can Expect

(Portland, Oregon) – UPDATE: Statues of Northern Lights a Possibility for Dec 17. What is already an intense period of activity on the sun just got bigger early Thursday, as NASA, the Space Weather arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and others report a massive solar flare erupted about 9 a.m Pacific Standard Time. (Image courtesy NASA)

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It's the strongest such solar flare in several years, reports NASA, clocking in at an X2.8 solar flare – among the highest.

This event could mean the Oregon coast and Washington coastline may end up seeing the Aurora Borealis. UPDATE: SpaceWeather.com said a CME is for sure. "We are still awaiting the results of NOAA modeling to confirm the timing of impact and the possible strength of any resulting geomagnetic storm."

In other words, they are not sure how far south or how strong it will be.

The Portland office of the National Weather Service (NWS) told Oregon Coast Beach Connection they have not received any reports of radio interruption in the Pacific Northwest, and the window for that would've happened earlier in the day, not long after the event.

It's a fairly immediate effect from these solar events, the NWS said. In any case, the highest impact was to the southern states.


Timelapse courtesy NASA

Other regions on the American continents have reported blackout interference, however. According to a NOAA map, the high levels of interference hit from about Texas down through Mexico and through the tip of South America.

While much of the data here surrounds a different kind of solar event, there are signs it could produce a northern lights effect down the line. SpaceWeather.com is also reporting the US Air Force has recorded a Type II solar radio burst, which points to a fast coronal mass ejection (CME). [SEE UPDATE AT TOP FOR LATEST ON THIS] These, in turn, do produce the Aurora Borealis, but the agency said it is still too soon to make a certain determination. These are often the leading-edge component of a CME, and if it is one, it will be a fast one.


Look to Oregon coast areas Cape Foulweather near Depoe Bay (above) or the pullout just north of Cape Perpetua for good photo spots when it comes to the aurora. There's no light pollution and the views are breathtaking.

“Based on the drift rate of the radio burst, the emerging CME's velocity could exceed 2100 km/s (4.7 million mph),” SpaceWeather.com said. “Stay tuned for confirmation.”

What will be the effects for the Washington coast, Oregon coast and inland areas like Seattle or Portland?

The dangers of any solar radiation interference in electronics is over, and a determination of whether or not there was a CME is still yet to be made. SpaceWeather.com has said, however, the guesses lean towards a CME with an “Earth-directed component.” The entire northwest - including the Oregon coast and Washington coast - may see a rather intense northern lights display, if conditions are right.

Check back with Oregon Coast Beach Connection over the next day for updates on this unique astronomy and atmospheric event.

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Aurora Borealis in Spokane, courtesy NWS


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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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