Weather Blog

Northern Lights, take two?

Northern Lights, take two?

Looks like the solar storm ran out of juice a few hours too early Tuesday night for there to be much of a show here in the Northwest. But we were close! Spaceweather.com has a gallery of photos from the storm, including a great shot from Grand Portage, Minnesota, which is on par with our latitude.

But we are getting a second shot at the lights again tonight. When the sun erupted on Sunday, there were two eruptions -- the energy from the first one arrived Tuesday (late morning our time, so that's why we missed out -- started too early and was starting to end by the time it got dark here.)

However, the second wave is now expected to arrive sometime Wednesday or early Thursday, triggering another display.

Once again, we'll have to cross fingers that the "stars align" as it takes quite a few things to go right to see the show. First of all, you need a storm strong enough to bring the aurora this far south. (Sounds like this will be the case). Second, you need clear skies (check…mostly). And third, you need darkness.

You'd think summer is the best time for viewing since it's the best chance of counting on clear skies in the Northwest. But ironically, summer is instead the worst time for Northern Lights viewing because the nights are so short, your window of opportunity for a storm to be raging amid really dark skies is much shorter. You've still got smidges of twilight at 10:30/11 p.m. and the sun starts making inklings of rising again just after 4 a.m. (Thus, the peak viewing times of midnight to 4 a.m.).

Prime conditions are a clear night in November or December, when viewing times extend closer to 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. (although city lights are still an issue) but you all know how hard it is to find a clear night in the late fall and winter.

For tonight, at least our local set up is about the same -- mainly clear skies, but still thunderstorms at times in the mountains that can send some leftover clouds to the west into the lowlands. The marine flow is weaker, so that means we should get most, if not all of the night in without worrying about the low clouds and fog rolling in -- a bonus to people away from the cloudy Cascades.

So if you're daring, try again to peek tonight. And I'll keep Tweeting updates (Twitter: @ScottSKOMO) with updates on the storm if and when it arrives, and its strength. And as always, if you capture photographs or video of the event, you can submit them to our YouNews gallery.

(More information on what causes the Northern Lights and how to track them can be found in my Tuesday weather blog post.)

What are we looking for?

Here is a great Time Lapse video of a storm seen in Norway. Ours probably wouldn't be this spectacular this far south, but an idea of the treats the far northern latitudes get: