May 24, 2024

Weather: Strongest solar storm since 2003 triggers Swiss northern lights

The northern lights shone across the night sky in Daelens in the canton of Vaud.


According to an American authority, the first “severe” solar storm was recorded on Earth since 2003. It caused northern lights in Switzerland, as announced by the Federal Meteorological Service Mitschwitz.

The Space Weather Prediction Center of the US National Weather Service and Oceanographic Administration (NOAA) said that a Level 5 solar storm was observed on the five-level scale on Friday evening (local time). The solar storm is expected to continue until the end of the week.

NOAA also said GPS, power grids, spacecraft, satellite navigation and other technology could be affected. The authorities notified satellite operators, electricity networks, and airlines to take precautionary measures in anticipation of any possible outage. According to NOAA, the Category 5, classified as “extreme,” was last reached in October 2003 during the so-called Halloween storms. At that time there was a power outage in Sweden and transformers were damaged in South Africa.

Northern lights over the Swiss night sky

Due to the strong geomagnetic storm, the northern lights were visible up to Swiss latitudes, the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology (Meteoswiss) announced on the X electronic platform on Friday evening. Meteoschweiz captured the landscape with a weather camera in Ravoire near Martigny VS. The Eschenberg Observatory in Winterthur also observed the landscape, the observatory in the canton of Zurich announced.

According to Meteoschweiz, the northern lights are caused by the interaction between charged particles from space and the Earth’s atmosphere. The solar wind consists of charged particles, especially electrons and protons, emitted by the Sun.

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Once the charged particles reach the atmosphere, they collide with gases in the atmosphere. Energy and light are released during collisions. The color of the northern lights depends on the type of gas molecules that the charged particles in the atmosphere interact with and the altitude at which these interactions occur. The stronger the solar wind, the farther south the northern lights can be seen.