It was the chase we knew we were getting into, although it may not have turned out to be as rewarding as I thought it potentially could have been leaving town 130 kilometres earlier, there was the added bonus of about 15 bison lingering in the middle of the highway just before we hit some clear breaks and faint streaks of aurora.
If we're being real, there's usually a few of these every year, but only a few. They're the nights when the auroral conditions are the perfect storm for a few very, very quiet hours. Unfortunately for us, it also fell on a night close to a full moon when clouds ate up the sky past 2am. These nights happen, and thankfully they are few and far between.
There is a genuine joy in this for me hearing guests feel that at the end of their second night seeing the aurora they are seeing the colour better than they first could. Of course, there is a well documented difference between the colours our eyes see compared to what your camera captures, and even more so to tourism marketing campaigns. But this night we picked up on the faintest edges of pink and clouds of swirling green. Nothing though, is ever like seeing the swirl and twist she dances above your head. Nothing nothing compares to that.
Nothing speaks to the chaos of a four stop clear sky chase in the overcrowded infrastructure days of the fall aurora season to the east of Yellowknife quite like a quickly changing weather, sporadic aurora burst kind night at the end of August can.
Here we are, just quietly crawling our way through solar minimum and none of the experts, or leaders, or talking heads down at the Space Weather Prediction Centre had a clue this was coming. These Kp7 or 'strong storm' conditions gave us the utmost enjoyment for hours tonight, and increased the stress of a 90 kilometre clear sky chase only slightly.
Well, the weather has been acting like it's late October for a while now. We're running from being engulfed in cloud more nights than not, but here we are not even the last week of August and we've graced freezing temperatures. Tonight reached 0°C whether you were ready for it or not, and how ironic it was the Aussies last night who were ready for it while the rest of us absolutely weren't.
Tonight - mittens. Let's go.
You know, by paper, I mean between both a MacBook and an iPhone. There were clear paths to breaking skies and less cloud, but not that anyone should be surprised at this point, we did again throw some of that nicely proposed theory on where the clear skies should be out the proverbial window to spend the night in an on-again off-again clear sky chase. I think very luckily, our night ended in some curtains dancing with hints of green and maybe the faintest flashes of pink.
Comes and goes another August night with distant lightning strikes, heavily studied satellite images and ever changing predictions, but most beautifully of all, an extremely patient group cosied up in chairs lakeside all for a late little burst of aurora once the weather had passed.
One night down to +4° at 96% humidity and it may as well have been December to me.
While I sit in my living room at 4am writing this blog post to only the glow of some dim solar lamps on the patio outside, a salt lamp on the windowsill and the ever so cosy cool white glow of a laptop screen, I can see over the neighbour's house across the street another small auroral break-up. This after a night balancing every weather app & bookmarked website on my iPhone with intuition and luck evading more torrential downpours and hours of circling thunder and lightning storms.