Watching for the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) this week

Weather Specials

Wednesday night into Thursday may be our best chance to see the Northern Lights

(WKBN) – A small chance for you to see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) has returned to our part of the country this week. It is not certain you will see them for a variety of factors such as cloud cover and the exact path of travel of these dancing waves of particles.

The best chance to see them will be late Wednesday night into early Thursday morning (December 10). There is a small chance again Thursday night.

Seeing them will hinge on the clearing of our clouds in our part of Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. We are on the extreme southern extent of viewing for this round of the Aurora Borealis. It will be a close call to catch them as we look to the north.

The sun has released a large expulsion of plasma and magnetic field from its corona this week and this CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) is expected to arrive to the Earth from December 9-11. This will interact with the Earth’s magnetic field, producing the Northern Lights.

These dancing waves are collisions between gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere clashing with charged particles released from the sun’s atmosphere, producing the Northern Lights.

Photo from the Space Weather Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Below is the watch issued from the Space Weather Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Tuesday, December 8:

Geomagnetic Storm Watches are in effect from December 9 – 11, 2020 due to anticipated CME effects. The CME occurred on December 7 and was associated with a C7 flare from Region 2790.

Analysis suggests CME arrival possible late on December 9, initially resulting in G1 (Minor) storm levels. As CME effects continue, activity is likely to increase, especially if the magnetic field carried with the CME connects well with Earth’s magnetosphere.

Therefore, the potential for strong storm levels exists and a G3 (Strong) Watch is in effect for December 10. CME-related disturbances are forecast to continue into December 11, likely resulting in G2 (Moderate) storm levels – and another Watch has been issued accordingly. While SWPC forecasters are fairly confident in CME arrival at Earth, timing and geomagnetic storm intensity are less certain.

Continue to monitor our SWPC webpage for the latest conditions and forecast.

The best time to see them will be from 11 p.m. Wednesday night through around 2 a.m. Thursday morning. Hopefully, the clouds will clear out enough to catch the event. There is a small chance Thursday night, but the most likely viewing would be farther north into Canada.

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