The Northern Lights Will Be Visible Over Parts of the U.S. Monday Morning

northern lights forecast

Some people in the northern reaches of the U.S. may be able to drive to work under the northern lights Monday morning. The Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) has issued a G1 geomagnetic storm alert for the morning of Monday, March 11 due to "an anticipated glancing blow from the 8 Mar [coronal mass ejection]" (CME).

The important part is that the situation can make the condition right to see the northern lights further south than you would under usual circumstances. 

Northern Lights Forecast
Courtesy of SWPC

The SWPC, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), didn't release a new map with the G1 alert, but above you can see a map from a previous instance. The green line represents the southern edge of the area that could see the aurora. You may see the display in parts of Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Maine. Additionally, you should be able to spot it throughout Canada outside of small parts of southern Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia. 

Of course, the aurora should also be visible in Alaska, but that's nothing new. Alaska is one of the best places in the world to go aurora hunting.

The video above shows the aurora borealis over the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan in early 2018 following a G1 watch. Under these circumstances, you might not have the brilliant, well-defined ribbons of bright light you'd expect in northern regions like Norway or with this wild "Dragon Aurora."

How To See the Northern Lights

The SWPC's 3-Day Forecast projects the G1 alert to last from 5am-2pm EST the morning of March 11. Of course, for the vast majority of that span, it will be too bright to see the northern lights anywhere in the contiguous US. However, at the start of the window, you might be able to catch the crackling spectacle.

If you want to maximize your chances of seeing the display, you need to be far from the light pollution of urban centers. An SWPC representative previously told Thrillist, "You need very clear skies, a good view of the northern horizon (no trees, buildings, or hills), and it needs to be dark." The view is necessary because, outside of far-north regions, the lights will largely appear on the northern horizon rather than directly overhead.

We're creeping up on spring, but it's certainly not here yet. So you'll have to do your best to stay warm if you're going out because it's helpful to be outside for an extended period of time. Your eyes need time to adjust to the darkness to get the best look at the display.

If you read here with any frequency, you know the northern lights appear across the northern part of the country from time to time. However, getting the circumstances right is far from a guarantee. (Not to mention that we are currently near solar minimum in the solar cycle, which makes it less likely to be treated to sightings like this.) If the stars are aligning in your area, it's worth stepping out to see the show.

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Writer on the news team at Thrillist. Follow him @dlukenelson.