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Geomagnetic storms could produce vibrant northern lights displays

Some stormy space weather is underway.
The Metro Vancouver weather forecast includes the chance to view the northern lights heading into December 2023.

The Metro Vancouver weather forecast isn't calling for a foggy or rainy evening but it may be possible to view the northern lights Wednesday night, Nov. 29. 

While the Lower Mainland was covered in a thick blanket of fog for several days, conditions cleared Wednesday morning. Some fog patches may begin to develop late overnight but an advisory is no longer in place and the skies are expected to be mostly clear. 

As of 2 p.m. on Wednesday, V.I.A.'s Downtown Centre Weatherhood station currently shows a "clear, cloudless" sky. A high of 8 C and a low of 5 are expected and the overnight forecast only shows some clouds. However, cloud coverage is expected to increase early Thursday morning, setting the stage for showers to roll in over the afternoon.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center is calling for the arrival of G3 (Strong) Geomagnetic Storms on Friday, Dec. 1. Storms of this magnitude have the potential to produce vibrant northern lights displays that stretch down into states south of the border. 

G1 and G2 storm watches are also in effect leading up to Dec. 1, meaning that displays are also possible. 

Photo via the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

According to the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), the auroral activity is relatively high, with displays possible overhead from "Inuvik, Yellowknife, Rankin and Iqaluit to Juneau, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Sept-Iles," and low on the horizon from "Vancouver, Great Falls, Pierre, Madison, Lansing, Ottawa, Portland and St. Johns."

The university's online aurora monitor map shows what regions the aurora's green glow will likely reach, as well as other areas where there is less of a possibility. Additionally, there is a brief description below the map of the aurora activity on that particular day. You can switch to other days to see the forecast, too.

Photo via University of Alaska Fairbanks

Northern lights viewing opportunities this week in and around Vancouver

Currently, the Metro Vancouver weather forecast doesn't include perfect conditions for viewing the aurora borealis on Thursday or Friday. But if the weather changes and skies clear, it may be possible to view some vibrant displays. 

On Thursday, Nov. 30, for example, auroral activity will be "high" with viewing displays possible low on the horizon "from Seattle, Des Moines, Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, and Halifax," according to the UAF. 

Photo via University of Alaska Fairbanks

Provided the skies clear in the Lower Mainland by Friday, there could be a truly awe-inspiring northern lights display. 

Auroral activity is expected to be extremely high on Friday. Instead of viewing the display low on the horizon, locals may observe the haunting green glow directly overhead- provided the pesky rain clouds don't interfere.

Displays are expected to be visible low on the horizon quite far south of Vancouver in places such as Salem, Boise, Cheyenne, Lincoln, Indianapolis, and Annapolis.

Photo via University of Alaska Fairbanks

To keep tabs on the weather forecast, browse the interactive map on Weatherhood, which offers over 50 weather stations for neighbourhoods across the Lower Mainland. This means you can find out what viewing conditions will be like in your area and the places you plan on heading out to view the space show.