The aurora borealis in Seattle’s sky back in August. (National Weather Service)
Seattle’s run of clear weather in November may very well be perfectly timed, with the aurora borealis possibly making an appearance in the night sky between Wednesday and Thursday.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a 24-hour watch period will kick off at 4 p.m. Wednesday, peaking in intensity in Western Washington between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
This is all occurring this week as a result of charged particles from the sun heading toward the Earth, causing a magnetic storm to take hold.
The NOAA measures the strength of an Aurora based along what it labels “KP lines.” The closer you are to being at or above a KP line, the better your chances are of seeing the Aurora borealis.
The NOAA’s KP line map
For Western Washington, the Puget Sound region sits directly on top of one of those lines, meaning the chances are good for being able to see the Northern Lights if the clear skies hold up through Wednesday night and early Thursday morning.
The KP scale runs between 1 and 10 to measure the strength of magnetic storm (and likelihood of seeing the aurora). Seattle’s KP number will likely peak at 5.
If it does appear in Seattle’s night sky, the NOAA estimates it will take on a cloud-like appearance. You can see real-time updates here.
The last time the Seattle area was able to catch the Aurora borealis was on Aug. 5, when it appeared above the National Weather Service’s local offices around 2 a.m.
Typically, the natural phenomena appears closer to the magnetic north pole, extending over Scandinavia, Greenland, Siberia, parts of northern Canada, and Alaska. So how does Seattle get so lucky? According to the NWS, the interplanetary magnetic field is tilted south, which often “bodes well for an aurora sighting in Western Washington.”
A similar occurrence took place in 2016, for what the NWS at the time called the “best aurora display we’ve seen in a decade here in Seattle.”