The aurora borealis forecast is a must-know if you want to see the elegant phenomenon that captivates everyone, but we must not forget that it is a natural event. However, some conditions must be met to enjoy the extraordinary display and movement of light in a dark sky.
Unfortunately, that is the part many people miss, and they take the long trek up cold mountains or regions and come out with nothing.
Are you booking your next trip to Iceland? Is reading the forecast a complicated task for you? Well, we have a compilation to help you scale through and get the best shots.
Reading the aurora forecast is challenging for people without significant knowledge of weather terms and patterns, but there is an easier way to get around it.
Before we jump right into it, there are a few definitions that will help you understand the aurora forecast. We have a note for enthusiastic tourists; the aurora borealis is a natural phenomenon and cannot be controlled even if the setting is perfect.
With that in mind, let’s go.
What is the aurora forecast?
First, the aurora results from geomagnetic storm conditions across the earth’s surface. The forecast is a short-term expression that shows the intensity, time, and location when the solar wind travels through space to an observation point on its surface.
The aurora forecast itself can be analyzed using indicator numbers referred to as the KP index. The usual ideology is that the higher the geomagnetic activity in a space or location, the higher your chances of viewing the aurora borealis in all its finery.
However, it still boils down to your ability to read the aurora forecast. But there are indicators used to predict and understand the Northern lights.
The three most common aurora forecast indicators are:
- The KP index
- Solar Cycle
- Aurora Oval system OVATION
The KP Index
This is the most common indicator for short-term and long-term predictions of the aurora borealis. This scale system measures the magnetic activity as related to the intensity of the northern lights. The number range is 0-9 and indicates two options.
- A higher KP index allows you to see the lights further south.
- A higher KP index also enables you to see the lights at a higher altitude.
While it is the most used, it is not consistently updated, and you can almost miss a beautiful sighting because of this.
The Solar Cycle
The sun and its solar activity play a crucial role in the expression of the aurora borealis, and it is a more accurate long-term method for forecasting the aurora.
The theory is based on the rotation of the sun and the number of solar particles ejected toward Earth. The sun has a rotational cycle of 27 days, and many predict an increase in solar activity and better sightings.
Well, it is as confusing as can be, but it works for those that understand it.
This is the latest aurora forecast technology by the NOAA space weather prediction center, which assesses the geomagnetic field and solar wind movement to produce an accurate prediction.
The ovation map shows the intensity and location of the aurora in a 30-40 minute forecast where the northern lights can be seen clearly anywhere worldwide. As with other forecast models, it is a short-term aurora forecast tool and readily updated, thereby improving your chances of seeing the aurora borealis.
In this article, we use the aurora forecast by the Icelandic Metrological Office. It is a short term system that allows tourist to analyze the possibility of sight using cloud movements at different times.
Additionally, this site allows you to see the predictions over:
Reykjavik and other areas in Iceland
The moon phase can make the aurora less visible but act otherwise, too.
Cloud coverage is why we love this site, as clouds, wind movement, and other natural features like glaciers, frozen lakes, and seas can influence cloud movement.
For cloud chasers and professional map readers, this is one site to enable you to chase the best aurora across Iceland.
The Icelandic Met Office is one of the best methods to forecast the aurora because it provides a detailed narration of the following.
Cloud level or direction at various times
The cloud forecast comes every 6 hours.
- The 06:00 forecast appears online around 10:00.
- The 12:00 forecast appears online around 16:00.
- The 18:00 forecast appears online around 22:00.
- The 00:00 forecast appears online around 04:00.
Additionally, visitors can check out the aurora forecast for different levels of clouds, including low and mid-level clouds, lower clouds, middle clouds, high clouds, and composite.
The cloud intensity can affect the visibility of the aurora lights, but it also predicts wind movement, enabling visitors to plan a successful viewing effortlessly.
Furthermore, you can check the forecast for specific days, giving you ample time to choose the best day to view the aurora.
As seen on the map, all you need to do is click on the one applicable to you, choose the date and time, and prepare for your trip.
Remember, the Icelandic Met Office is one of the most reliable aurora forecast sources for tracking the Northern lights. The website monitors solar activity based on geomagnetic activity and also provides a 6-day forecast for visitors.
Best Aurora Forecast Apps
If going through the website is rigorous and confusing, several apps simplify the process. After all, not everyone has the patience to read all the lines on a map. Below are some of the best apps to use for the aurora forecast.
This app was designed by two Icelandic inventors (so it is fair to say they know the terrain and weather). However, the Hello Aurora app is an efficient system that allows users to find where the northern lights would be clearly visible at their location. The app uses a huge database and other predictions to discern the likelihood of seeing one. Once you download the app, users can use the following: aurora strength, IMF direction, IMF strength, solar winds, and cloud coverage to discern the next aurora sighting.
This is another incredible and user-friendly app with all the essential information needed to help you track the exact location and sighting of the Northern Lights. The app uses the KP index, solar activity, and geomagnetic storms as indicators to ensure you do not miss your next light in Iceland.
The Aurora Borealis Forecast and Alerts Map
If you are looking for a paid aurora forecast app with all the pecks, then this is it. Available for download on the Android and Apple stores, this beautifully designed app gives you access to all the current information and predictions at the tap of a button. Users get access to cloud cover forecasts, moon and sun rise and set times, moon phase, and solar activity for their location. Additionally, this app provides a three-day aurora forecast, making it easy to plan your trips and maximize your chances of an unforgettable viewing.
My Aurora Forecast
If you are determined and confident enough to hunt for the best locations for aurora viewing, then this free app is one for the road. My Aurora Forecast app is uniquely designed and user-friendly. Available for Apple users, it provides long-term aurora forecasts, enabling you to plan your trip ahead. Hey, you also get free push notifications about viewing sights. This way, you always get the best photographic shots.
Aurora Forecast Iceland
Get a summary of the sights in Iceland using a top forecasting system. The aurora forecast gives users access to different forecast using information from NASA, NOAA, the Iceland’s Leirvogur Magnetic Observatory and the Icelandic Met Office.
The Astronomy website (Stjörnufræðivefurinn) and the Aurora Service Europe
These are two amazing websites to track the aurora forecast in Iceland or Europe. The Astronomy site is especially perfect for people who also love astronomy and provides a 7-day aurora forecast for users. It, however, lacks the cloud coverage option.
The Aurora Service Europe is a great tool that tracks the aurora in Europe, including Iceland. It provides a 3-day aurora forecast and is easy to read.
These apps and websites enable you to track and plan the perfect trip, but if you are in Iceland, you cannot always run away from light pollution. So these apps allow you to capture incredible displays despite the odds.
We also suggest moving in a group or on tour with a specialist guide. They know some of the best locations and have mastered the various tools to give you the best view of the aurora borealis in your vicinity.
The aurora borealis is a sight to behold that depends on weather and solar activity. This science, thankfully, has tools like the KP index and aurora maps to help you understand and find your way to the best views. The Icelandic Met Office is one of the best websites to accurately predict the northern lights.
However, if you cannot access the site for whatever reason, we have also listed some apps that are equally as good and will increase your chances of seeing the aurora borealis in your location.