Signs In The Night Sky

Inside Dakota Ag

What's driving climate change? A North Dakota aurora watcher says he sees a link between the frequency of northern lights and global warming.

Published on: February 7, 2012

Jay Bursch, a Glenn Ullin, N.D., amateur sunspot and aurora borealis watcher, sent me an interesting letter the other day. It details the number of auroras, or northern lights, he has documented by month since 1981. There are more 2,250.

Bursch, who has been quoted by ABC News and several aurora borealis societies, thinks that di auroras, or northern lights, can tell us what’s driving climate change.

Auroras are caused by sunspots and solar flares. The more solar flares, the theory goes, the more solar energy reaches the earth.

An aurora lights up the night sky over North Dakota. Could increase in the frequency of nothern lights foreshadow global warming?
An aurora lights up the night sky over North Dakota. Could increase in the frequency of nothern lights foreshadow global warming?

Scientists don’t generally agree that solar activity is behind current global warming. Some say the energy from the solar flares is no stronger than starlight. However, there does seem to be more consensus that prolonged periods of solar inactivity may have caused the ice ages.

So why wouldn’t a prolonged increase in solar activity heat up the earth?  Ironically, about the only way you could prove natural solar activity is driving climate change would be to significantly reduce man-made carbon emissions.

Bursch thinks the link between solar flares, auroras and climate is common sense. He’s even sees a link between North Dakota weather and the number of auroras he’s counted from his home in the east-central part of the state.

“I documented an abrupt decline in auroras from 2006 to 2009, and note that we had the meanest winters in at least a decade [during that period].”

Likewise, warm weather and solar hyperactivity occurred in the early 1980s and 1990s and around the turn of the century, he says.

You can see more of Brausch’s aurora and sky photos at his website, nightwalker50.deviantart.com.