GREAT FALLS — The NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center has issued a G3 geomagnetic storm watch for Wednesday night, and a G2 geomagnetic storm watch for Thursday night. This means that the aurora borealis may be visible in portions of Montana over the next few nights.
Wednesday night is when Montanans have the best chance to see the northern lights, followed by Thursday night. For Tuesday night, there is a slim chance that we could see the northern lights in northern Montana, but it is highly unlikely.
A G1 geomagnetic storm watch corresponds to a Kp value of 5; a G2 geomagnetic storm watch corresponds to a Kp value of 6; and a G3 geomagnetic storm watch corresponds to a Kp value of 7. The larger the Kp number is, the stronger the aurora borealis is, and the further south the aurora borealis can be seen.
Wednesday night is when a Kp value of 7 is possible, which means that all of the northern U.S., including all of Montana, has a chance to see the aurora borealis. A Kp value of 6 is possible Thursday night, which means that portions of Montana have a chance to see the aurora borealis.
Cloud cover can inhibit the viewing of the aurora borealis, but luckily for Montana, mostly to mainly clear skies are in the forecast for Wednesday night. If anything, the haze will probably ruin the aurora borealis viewing more than the clouds will. Partly cloudy to mostly clear skies are then expected Thursday night.
Please know that the aurora borealis is hard to predict, and the geomagnetic storms may end up being stronger or weaker than what is currently forecasted. The timing of the impact of the fast moving charged particles from the sun may also change, which could impact when the best chance to view the aurora borealis is. Point being, there is no guarantee that we will see the aurora borealis in Montana over the next few nights, but right now we do have a good chance to see it. Fingers crossed!
In order to get the best viewing, make sure you are as far away from city lights as possible.
Jim Thomas, the operator of Soft Serve News, posts frequent updates to let people know how likely it is that the Northern Lights may be visible.
If you happen to take any pictures of the aurora borealis, feel free to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org, or upload them by clicking here.