The northern lights are one of the most impressive sights in Iceland, and it’s no surprise that thousands of people visit each year to catch a glimpse of this beautiful phenomenon. So, how much do you know about the northern lights and Kp number? You’re probably one of many people who believe that the Kp index means how strong the northern lights will be or how likely it will be to see them. However, this is not true. Here’s a look at what the kp index truly means and its impact on your chances of seeing the aurora borealis.
Read our guide on Aurora Forecast: How to read the Aurora forecast?
What is the Kp index?
Due to numerous research, scientists discovered that several phenomena caused the appearance of Aurora on planet Earth. It is common knowledge that the sun is one of the factors responsible. Still, this majestic planet is also responsible for sending potentially harmful particles into our atmosphere through toxic storms. Therefore, the Kp index was created as an accurate scale to measure the power of these geomagnetic storms.
Know When does the Northern Lights season end in Iceland? so that you can see the North lights properly.
This was necessary given how severe the impact of these storms can be, especially as areas affected could go without internet access, radio, phones, or even fires for several days. The K in Kp comes from the word “Kennziffer,” which means Index in German, while “P” represents planetary. So, we can translate this to the mean planetary index, which measures the global strength of a geomagnetic occurrence on a scale of 0 to 9.
While the Kp gives the global version of the effect of a magnetic storm, the local K index examines the local impact, with 0 representing a quiet storm to 9 describing very severe storms. What is the relationship between northern lights and Kp number? Several findings have suggested that the Kp index is also helpful for Aurora chasing since it serves as a scale for global geomagnetic activity. Therefore, it provides a color-coded means of measurement that represents a rough estimate of the intensity of the northern lights according to each Kp number. The auroral zone corresponds to powerful storms, typically at a Kp index of 5-9, since this shows more magnetic activity.
Is the Kp index that important for Aurora chasing?
Despite how important it sounds to monitor the Kp index of a region before heading out to see the northern lights, this measurement scale surprisingly has little to no effect on how strong the northern lights will be or if they will appear at all. This means that there is minimal relationship between northern lights and the Kp number.
Many aurora forecast websites claim that the Kp Index measures solar activity, and higher numbers mean more solar activity, which increases the likelihood of seeing the northern lights. For ranges between 1 and 2, northern lights will be concentrated in the Arctic but won’t be as strong. However, the Kp index of five or six increases the chances of seeing red or violet bands in the aurora borealis. How, then, do we explain incidences where Iceland’s strongest lights show a Kp index range between one and three? That’s because the Kp index is not the primary means of determining whether you can see the beautiful northern lights.
The best tips for seeing the northern lights
If the Kp number is not that important for seeing the Aurora Borealis in Iceland, how do you truly increase your chances of experiencing this magical event at least once in your lifetime? Here are some of the best tips that have worked for years and will help you.
Pick the right time
The first thing to look out for when Aurora chasing in Iceland is to pick the most suitable time for this. Choosing the right month increases your chances astronomically. Summertime is not a good idea as it is usually too bright in the Arctic around this time, reducing the chances of having clear skies for the appearance of northern lights. The best months are August through April. The nights are usually darker towards the end of August, and when winter begins in November, the icy conditions also bring along long periods of darkness.
Go far north
Well, they are called the northern lights for a reason. The areas for intense auroral activity are usually between latitudes 650 and 700 due north, representing most of Iceland. Therefore, to increase your chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis, you should look towards the North, where there’s an increased chance of auroral activity. There are many places in Reykjavik’s northern region to check out, including Perlan, Grotta Lighthouse, and Grandi Area.
The darker the skies, the better
This is another reason you can’t see the Northern Lights in summer. It would be best if you had dark skies, and this is next to impossible in summer. However, apart from hunting for the Aurora at night, you should also look for clear skies. Clouds in the skies can conceal the Aurora and dampen the effect of their magnificence. Therefore, you should look out for a forecast of clear skies where there is no interference from clouds or other phenomena. This also means going as far away from the city as you can. Most cities have high-rise buildings that could become obstructions. Öskuhlið Hill in Reykjavik is a fantastic location where you can view the northern lights from a viewing deck.
Store up a lot of patience
Last but most importantly, you need a heavy dose of patience to help you in your search for the northern lights. It’s easy to get frustrated as the waiting time increases with each passing day. However, you’ll be glad you did, as the views of the Northern Lights will make up for your hours of dedication. So, just as you can’t completely predict several acts of nature, it’s best to make yourself as comfortable as possible while you wait. Stay warm and pack an ample amount of snacks.
Now that you know that there is no extreme relationship between northern lights and Kp number as this is not a necessary prerequisite for seeing the aurora, it’s time to pack your bags and head out for the journey of a lifetime. All you need are the right conditions, and these tips will give you the necessary boost to make the search easier.