May 20, 2024 | Yahoo! News, Ocean Networks Canada via UVic News

While the aurora borealis lit up the sky on May 10, its impact could also be seen from deep within our oceans. According to Ocean Networks Canada (OCN), their underwater compasses had observed substantial shifts within the earth’s magnetic field. As stated in an article by Yahoo! News, the compass close to Vancouver Island, NEPTUNE, had “changed direction between +30 and -30 degrees.”

In a statement from ONC, they explained that this discovery was made during data quality control checks back in March. At first, Alex Slonimer, a scientific data specialist at ONC thought it could have been an earthquake.

“But that didn’t make a lot of sense because the changes in the data were lasting for too long and concurrently at different locations,” said Slonimer. “Then, I looked into whether it was a solar flare as the sun has been active recently.”

The recent northern lights helped to strengthen this theory, as the statement explained, “peaks in the compass headings closely correlated to the peaks in the visible activity in the aurora.”

Alex Slonimer is a scientific data specialist at Ocean Networks Canada, an initiative at the University of Victoria. According to their website, they “monitor the east and west coasts of Canada and the Arctic, collecting real-time, open data that deliver solutions for science, society, and industry.”

Read more about Alex Slonimer’s research, by checking out their author page on our institutional repository UVicSpace! Or to learn more about NEPTUNE by searching for it in our “browse by subject” option!