Aurora borealis to be visible farther south early Thursday morning

The aurora could be seen as far south as Pennsylvania, Iowa and Oregon early Thursday

Northern lights above Hotel Ranga in Hella, Iceland. (Kristján Pétur Vilhelmsson, Hotel Ranga)

ROANOKE, Va. – For many, the Aurora borealis (northern lights) is on the bucket list. I know it is for me!

A strong geomagnetic storm is forecast by NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, resulting in higher odds of the aurora being visible farther south early Thursday morning.

There’s a small chance we see a faint glow on the northern horizon, but you have to find a clear sky and a place with little-to-no light pollution.

If there’s any chance for us, it’s between 11 p.m. Wednesday and 5 a.m. Thursday

Areas just north of here, perhaps as far south as Pennsylvania, stand the chance of seeing the Aurora in all its glory!

This is according to the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Visibility forecast for the Aurora borealis on 8/18/2022 - Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks

The aurora develops in response to a solar flare that interacts with the earth’s magnetic field. The strength of this geomagnetic storm, and the height in the atmosphere at which this happens, determines what colors become visible.

You can see how the process works in detail below.

How the Aurora borealis forms

A solar storm of this magnitude could even cause GPS, satellite and high-frequency (HF) radio disruptions.


About the Author:

Meteorologist Chris Michaels is an American Meteorological Society (AMS) Certified Broadcaster, forecasting weather conditions in southwest Virginia on WSLS 10 News from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. weekdays on Virginia Today.