Update 2006-07-07: version 0.5 now available: further bug fixes.

Update: Version 0.2 is now available. It fixes the bug that caused the occasional false “9”s to appear. If you have installed version 0.1, go to your Extensions menu, right-click on the Space Weather Forecast, and choose “Find Update”.

Here in the northernmost major city in Canada, we get occasional spectacular displays of the aurora borealis. A couple of years ago my daughter and I saw a beaut on our way home from the video store: white silk curtains shimmering all over the northern sky. But mostly, I miss them because I’m indoors without a north-facing window. And now the magnetic North Pole is leaving Canadian waters on its way to Siberia, travelling at a rate of 40 km per year and picking up speed. And it’s taking prime aurora-viewing conditions with it.

So as not to miss any more of our dwindling displays, I’ve cobbled together a Firefox extension that displays the current geomagnetic conditions. This is only good for Canada: the data is scraped from Natural Resources Canada’s Current Space Weather pages for one of the seven geomagnetic regions (in compliance with NRC’s conditions for non-commercial reproduction).

Download the extension.

The forecast will be displayed in the status bar at the bottom of your browser window, in the form of three coloured squares with numbers in them. The numbers and colours represent the three columns on a forecast page: activity in the last hour, the forecast for the next three hours, and the forecast for three to six hours from now. Mouse over them for a text forecast, and click on them to open the NRC forecast page. Use the options menu for this extension (Tools | Extensions) to select your zone; you’ll have to restart Firefox to get the change to take effect. The forecast is updated every 30 minutes, or when you restart Firefox.

There’s a bug somewhere that causes false “9”s to appear from time to time, which gets your hopes up for a really fine display. I’m going to do proper version control on this extension, so if I fix this (or if anyone sends me a fix, hint hint) you’ll be able to grab an update automatically.

Things have been very quiet over the last couple of days while I’ve been tinkering with this; I haven’t seen anything higher than a one. Here’s hoping for some juicy activity on high while it stays mild here in the lower atmosphere.