Northern Lights Possible Tonight

Very late tonight and again tomorrow night there is a chance you could see the aurora borealis or northern lights.  Note I wrote CHANCE.  I have still never seen them even after telling viewers multiple times that a CHANCE is on the way “tonight”.  Why?  Often they just appear for a few minutes or dozens of minutes at a time and then disappear.  Sometimes they don’t appear at all in our skies even though a geomagnetic storm is in progress.  Just to throw a number out there, if you were to go outside late tonight and stare up at the sky for 5 minutes out in the country…you probably have a 5% chance of seeing the northern lights.  Out of the ENTIRE night NOAA guesses we have about a 50% chance of seeing them at some point during the night.  Seems like aurora forecasting is about where weather forecasting was 100 years ago.


As of 5pm the storm has not yet arrived.  So don’t even bother in the next few hours.  Keep an eye on to see what’s going on elsewhere across the Northern Hemisphere.

You can find the latest planetary “K” index at this website:

It’s a measure of geomagnetic storm activity.  When the level jumps to 6 & 7 that’s a big storm.  As of 5:30pm it’s all quiet and the storm has not arrived. Keep in mind that the times are in UTC…which is 8 hours ahead of us.  So we’re actually 1 hour 30 minutes into December 31st in UTC time…got it?


Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

26 Responses to Northern Lights Possible Tonight

  1. Pete says:

    I am saddened to hear you have never seen the ‘lights’. I am also saddened by the fact that I have now reached a stage in life where the ‘lights’ are nothing special especially considering thousands of people travel to Alaska every year from around the world to experience the Aurora. The past few years as I leave my cabin each night to turn off my generator I will look at the sky but unless it is a spectacular ‘show’ I hardly ever stop and admire them. I wish I could regain my lost innocence and once again enjoy our nightly gift from God.

  2. Would love to see these again but I am in the middle of Wi and I don’t think we will see them 😦 They are beautiful tho

  3. Farmer Ted says:

    Did see the Aurora borealis one time during the early ’80’s when I was up before dawn heading up into the Mt. Hood forest woodcutting, I remember it was quite spectacular and was visible for a long period of time.

  4. Holy pancakes. 00z 4km Wind Gust model paints 60kts(65mph) gusts for 10 AM Friday over PDX. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen 60kt easterly gusts ever on the WRF for us.

    Zoomed image. 35-40kt gusts extend good distance west of I-5.

  5. MasterNate says:

    Not sure if this was what Mark was talking about but it doesn’t look good for seeing the lights. From,

    “WEAK IMPACT: As expected, a CME hit Earth’s magnetic field on Dec. 31st (00:30 UT). The impact, however, was weak and did not produce a geomagnetic storm. Auroras are still possible in the hours ahead as Earth moves through the CME’s turbulent wake, but so far this has not been a significant space weather event.”

  6. The CME impact has so far been weaker than forecast. K index is currently only 4 (nowhere near strong enough).

  7. Laurene Eldred says:

    There is a webcam set up in Trout Lake, WA which points northeast toward Mt Adams.
    It is a special camera which enables one to see the Northern Lights.
    However, tonight’s heavy cloud cover is in the way. Maybe tomorrow night will be clear.

  8. 00z WRF 4km Sounding for PDX sure looks insanely windy! 50-55kt wind barbs just off the surface. High winds definitely looking more possible east of I-205 now. This is a few notches stronger than 12z WRF run which had 45kts and briefly touched 50kts. 00z is just a notch colder compared to 12z also. Columbia Basin cold pool a notch colder at 925mb, high pressure 1-3mb stronger, PDX-DLS a bit stronger too. PDX-DLS is already -10mb or so by 7 AM tomorrow morning. I think the WRF is starting to handle the cold pool a bit better.

  9. paulbeugene says:

    You need Kp8 for northern lights in Oregon

    • paulbeugene says:

      For curtains visible above horizon. If you’re happy enough to see the glow from the sewage treatment plant over the horizon then Kp 6-7 will suit you fine

  10. LongtimeLurker says:

    Thank you Mark for creating and maintaining this weather blog! I’ve been lurking for years and love coming here for weather happenings. I guess I’m a weather geek and never knew it in my younger years! Happy New Year to you and the blog family. 🙂

  11. Kshgrant59 says:

    My daughter and I saw them in August or September of 2000 from our home in St. Helens. It was one of the most amazing things we have ever seen! Would have loved to have stayed up much later but had to work in the morning. Hope to see them again tonight!

  12. pappoose in scappoose says:

    Got it!

  13. Jason Hougak says:

    What an awesome day seeing the snow covered trees in the Cascades. Simply beautiful seeing Mt Hood after its month long powder coat. Headed up Tilly Jane Aframe for New Years night and to the rock shelter Saturday night built by the CCC in the 30’s. Visited it in September when the upper mountain got its first coating of snow. Should be an excellent snowboard trip down all the way to the parking lot. The shelter is about 7,000 feet with the parking lot at about 3,000 feet.
    The inversion looks to be short lived and not extremely high. Maybe just enough to add a crust layer at the most on south facing slopes. Temps at Timberline @ 5880′ and Meadows @ 6500′ have warmed from the lower teens to upper teens lower 20’s.
    Happy New Year 2016 Mark and bloggers

  14. “I have still never seen them even after telling viewers multiple times that a CHANCE is on the way “tonight”.”

    My luck is better. The first time I saw them I was five or six and I was with my mother and my sister coming back to the Chicago suburbs from visiting grandparents in Milwaukee. The display was so spectacular that people were pulling cars off the road to stop and gawk. It being a strange sight for a young child, I found it a somewhat frightening experience.

    Then there was the time our air conditioner broke during a summer heat wave (again in the Chicago suburbs) and we set up our tent camper in the back yard for sleeping in. My dad got up to pee in the middle of the night, saw what was happening in the sky, and woke everyone else up to see. The last time was in New Mexico of all places.

    Believe it or not, I’ve never seen them in the Northwest, despite numerous false alarms leading to sleep deprivation. It’s literally been decades by now. Guess I was spoiled in my youth. Hopefully tonight’s the night.

  15. Mara says:

    I saw them from an airplane window once! They are beautiful!!

  16. MasterNate says:

    No sign of an inversion yet. Very cold in the mountains.

  17. Boydo3 N. Albany says:

    Hope it happens! I’ve seen them several times from my location in N Albany. We don’t have street lights in this neighborhood and it’s mostly farm land to our north except some new neighbors to my north that feel they have to have rediculously bright outdoor lights left on all night. 😦

  18. MasterNate says:

    Every time I look to the North for the Northern lights, the Portland lights drown everything out!

    • In that case it might be worth driving north to southern Washington state. Or not; no-shows outnumber shows when it comes to aurora chances. So it’s your choice as to how lucky you feel.

      I’m going to go to the bluff overlooking the Sound that I always go to… and probably see nothing, just based on the odds. But I gotta give it a try. The last time I did that (around midnight) I saw nothing then the display materialized an hour or two later when I was back in bed sleeping, as evidenced by photos taken by others in the area. Argh!

    • MasterNate says:

      I could just ask Portland to dim their lights but probably less chance of that happening. I think my best bet would be to find elevation in the foothills. I will take my chances on tomorrow night.

  19. Aleta-West Gresham says:


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