Good forecast coming up! We have a G2 storm WATCH in effect for Saturday night, September 3/4. Be ready for lights SATURDAY night and also Sunday night as it is predicted to taper off.
From NOAA Space Weather: The geomagnetic field is expected to be quiet to unsettled on 02 Sep. Active conditions are likely on 03 Sep, and G1-G2 storms are likely on 04 Sep, due to the influence of a recurrent positive polarity CH HSS.
Translation: Kp 0-2 Sept 2, then Kp 4 by Sept 3. Saturday night Sept 3, when it is dark, chance for Kp 5 and Kp 6. The possible aurora storm is caused by the coronal hole high speed stream, from the sunspots from last month.
Keep in mind the forecast is in UTC times. So be ready on SATURDAY night!
The locations aurora may be seen are the upper portion of the USA, all of Canada, and all of Alaska. The weather needs to be clear(ish) to see aurora. Use a light pollution map to decide where to go if you are not in a dark sky area.
There have been so many solar flares in the past days. It is interesting to see as we have been in solar minimum. A few nights ago the aurora was seen from the northern states, including Montana and Washington, across Canada, and throughout Alaska. Clear weather finally happened in the Anchorage area, so many got the chance to see the northern lights this summer for the first time since the midnight sun took over in May.
We have seen the lights in early August in Fairbanks, but clouds and rain stopped many people from looking, going with the old rumor that you can’t see aurora in August.
A frustrating part of sharing the news that the aurora is out are the people that hold onto their beliefs of what they heard, or because they themselves never witnessed it, therefore it does not exist or happen.
Aurora is seen anytime it is dark. There is not a “season” for aurora that starts and stops on a certain date. The “season” is called such because of tourism dates for tour guides, and when the sun goes down enough for it to be dark enough. There is no “season” for aurora in lower latitudes where it is dark at night.
For those that never experienced the midnight sun, as the earth rotates, and winter becomes summer, and summer becomes winter, the part of the earth nearer the poles will have 24 hour daylight in summer, and 24 hours of darkness in the winter.
For Fairbanks and much of Alaska (minus the most southern end), we have 24 hours of sunshine in the summer. The beginning and the end of summer have a little darkness at night. We can see the aurora at this time. Aurora plus the sun setting or rising is an amazing sight, with blue hues and amazing color. Photography is easy at this point because there is plenty of light. It is brief, however, so simply be awake during the time it is dark, whether it is 15 minutes or an hour.
As we head into winter, the nights get longer, and the resulting darkness gives a better chance to see aurora, because there is more time.
Another thing I hear often is people who think Kp levels mean aurora, or no aurora if it is a low number. Kp levels are how wide the aurora may be, using the estimations the space weather forecasters see based on activity on the sun. We still need to watch the solar wind speeds and the direction. For Fairbanks, we see aurora at Kp 0.
Some websites and apps are stuck on Kp levels. If you live far south of the typical aurora zone, the Kp level forecasts may be important to you, so watch for predictions one level LOWER than what you need for your area.. Remember, the current Kp level is what has happened in the PAST 3 hours.
The mass news media loves to pick up stories about the aurora fairly randomly. For every big event predicted in the news, we see big aurora storms 2, 3, 4 times or more, that they have not picked up on.
I probably can write a few more paragraphs on the frustrations of aurora watching. I have been called a liar when I said the lights can be seen in August. Since it was not to my face and only on social media, I just laughed it off. A few days ago, a friend told me that her guests were told the aurora is seen only in the cold of winter. She had to correct them. They had missed the aurora the night before, because they didn’t know.
One of the biggest questions I get is “Where should I go?”. I have created a map of places to park to enjoy the aurora. Here is Fairbanks and here is Anchorage. I have created a map for Talkeetna, although, really, just get away from the tall trees! For other locations in the world, here are some pointers.
Where to go? If you are staying at a cozy bnb in the countryside away from the city, STAY THERE unless it is cloudy, then drive to clearer skies, or hire a tour guide. Do you know how many people have texted me from far away, only to return back to their bnb and see the lights right from their bedroom window? You do not need to go to a “top spot” to see aurora. The top spots listed on travel websites are for those who need a place to park to watch, such as city dwellers or those deep in the trees! A parking area is nice also if the weather is poor, and the top of a mountain may show a better view to get away from clouds, or if the aurora is very very low on the horizon and not otherwise seen easily. Aurora is over 60 miles above the earth. If someone in your area is seeing aurora, you do not necessarily need to go to their exact spot.