Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union

Ezekiel and the Northern Lights: Biblical aurora seems plausible



Auroral specialists have suggested that in the Bible's Old Testament book of Ezekiel, the opening vision of a “storm cloud out of the north” depicts imagery inspired by a low-latitude auroral display [Link, 1967; Eather, 1980; Silverman, 1998]. Naturally, other interpretations have been suggested, including a true epiphany, a sandstorm, a thunderstorm, a tornado, a solar halo, a hallucination, and a UFO. Biblical scholars place the site of the Ezekiel's vision about 100 km south of Babylon near Nippur, latitude ˜32°, longitude ˜45°, and the date is within a year or two of 593 B.C., or about 2600 years ago.

An auroral interpretation of the vision is subject to possible refutation due to several geophysical considerations. Can auroras be seen at Ezekiel's latitude? More important, can they reach a coronal stage of development, which is what the vision requires? Was the tilt of the dipole axis favorable? Was the general level of solar activity favorable? And finally, What effect does a larger dipole moment in Ezekiel's time have on the question? All but the last question could have been answered on the basis of geophysical data a decade ago or earlier.