The Space Weather Prediction Center has issued a geomagnetic storm watch for Saturday night, and that means a spectacle in the sky will be possible in New Jersey, as long as the clouds clear out.
The northern lights, or aurora borealis, are predicted to extend as far south as the Delmarva Peninsula, putting New Jersey within range to catch the glimmering lights. On Saturday night, a G1, or minor, geomagnetic storm alert will go into effect.
On one hand, the new moon Saturday, responsible for minor coastal flooding at the shore, will keep the sky dark, ideal for sky gazing. On the other hand, a storm system will pass through overnight. Here is the forecast for Saturday night:
If you like summer, this weekend has something for you. If you like fall, we have a taste of…
8 p.m.: Partly cloudy
11 p.m.: Cloudy with showers and storms
2 a.m.: Cloudy with showers and storms
5 a.m.: Partly cloudy
So the beginning and end of the night will be the time to sky watch, if the northern lights do make it this far south. If the sky does clear out enough, one would need to find a spot that has the northern horizon unobstructed and is without light pollution.
According to the Space Weather Prediction Agency, electrons colliding near the edge of Earth's atmosphere cause the aurora. They then speed up. As they do, they move via magnetic field down to the polar regions, where they collide with oxygen and nitrogen. That puts them into a higher energy state. When they relax, they release light, creating the aurora.
If you see the northern lights tonight, be sure to send us photos at PressofAC.com/photosubmissions.
Parts of South Jersey are in a moderate drought
Despite two days with accumulating rain, it was not enough to reverse the effects of drought in New Jersey. In fact, six times as many places are in drought with the Oct. 17 update than the week before.
According to the United States Drought Monitor, 37.06 percent of the Garden State is in a moderate drought, a D1 classification. Essentially, all locations south of the Atlantic City Expressway are now in D1 stage. On the Oct. 8 update, only 7.59 percent of the state was in moderate drought, which was focused in southwestern New Jersey.
To the north of the Expressway, conditions are "abnormally dry".
The 37.06 percentage is the highest area in drought since Mar. 21, 2017. Moderate drought has also overtaken portions of west-central New Jersey, which was not the case in the prior week.
Drought conditions range from abnormally dry, classified as D0, all the way to Exceptional Drought, D4. Here are the threat levels, along with their meaning.
Abnormally Dry - D0
This stage either means the region will go into drought if rain does not come, or will come out of drought.
According to the United States Drought Monitor, Abnormally Dry conditions bring:
Delayed planting and stunted crop growth
An elevated fire danger
Lawns that brown early, along with wilted gardens
A decline in surface water levels
Abnormally Dry conditions can reasonably be expected every 3 to 5 years, according to New Jersey State Climatologist Dave Robinson.
Moderate Drought - D1
This is the first official drought category, which occurs every 5 to 10 years, on average, according to Robinson. During this time:
Irrigation use increases
Hay and grain yields are lower than normal
Honey production declines
Wildfires and ground fires increase
Trees and landscaping are stressed; fish are stressed
Voluntary water conservation is requested; reservoir and lake levels are below normal capacity.
Severe Drought - D2
Severe drought is when day to day impacts are felt by the general population. This occurs every 10 to 20 years, on average, said Robinson. This includes:
Outdoor water restrictions are implemented
Warnings are issued on outdoor burns
Water quality is poor
Golf courses conserve water
Crops are impacted in both yield and fruit size
Producers begin feeding cattle
Poor air quality
Trees are brittle and susceptible to insects
Fish kills occur
Extreme Drought - D3
Extreme drought brings increased strain on resources in the area, including:
Widespread crop loss
Stressed Christmas trees
Wells that run dry
Increased business from well drillers
Wildlife disease outbreak
Extremely reduced flow to ceased flow of water
Warm river temperatures
Extreme drought is rare in New Jersey and occurs every 20 to 50 years on average, according to Robinson.
Exceptional Drought - D4
Exceptional Drought stage is extremely rare in New Jersey. The only time once has occurred since 2000 was between Aug. 20-26, 2002. Even still, the only counties in this category were Salem and a very small part of Cumberland County (Stow Creek and Greenwich).
During this stage, crop less is widespread. Water emergencies go into place as well. In 2002, the Great Egg Harbor River, as other small streams in South Jersey, were at a then all-time low. The former Seaview Mariott Resort in Galloway had to reduce their water usage. Landscapers cut their works because they couldn't cut lawns.