Be sure to check the live aurora forecast and weather conditions before your Northern Lights tour in Iceland.
The scale ranges from 0 to 9, where a value of 0 indicates very little geomagnetic activity and a value of 9 indicates an extreme geomagnetic storm.
But remember that even though the KP index shows moderate to high activity, there is no insurance that you will be able to see the lights since the northern lights are a natural phenomenon and when it comes to nature, there are no guarantees! It's also good to keep in mind that the lights have been seen when the KP index showed 0.
Peek at the Northern Lights forecast in Iceland before you book your tour to increase your chances of seeing these world-famous dancing lights. The solar activity map and the cloud forecast give up-to-the-minute hints on the locations of the aurora tonight.
In the past, we gave credit to gods and magical creatures for creating the fabled Northern Lights. Now that science has revealed that optimal aurora conditions depend more on solar wind and reactions between energy particles from the solar wind and Earth’s magnetic field, experts can predict where and when the lights will appear–to some degree.
Arctic Adventures guides keep track of weather, solar flares, and cloud cover to make the Northern Lights tours worthwhile and eventful for the sightseers.
The colorful Aurora Borealis appear when the solar wind blows the Sun’s charged particles into the Earth’s atmosphere through the weak spots, i.e. the magnetic poles. There, protons and electrons interact with gas atoms and effuse energy and light. The playful colors of the Northern Lights depend on the type of gas particles involved.
Solar winds are streams of charged particles that come from the Sun. The Earth’s magnetic field attracts these electrons that then gather around the magnetic poles. When energy particles collide with the gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, a glow lights up the night sky.
The result is the shining Aurora Borealis in the Northern Hemisphere, and the Aurora Australis in the Southern Hemisphere.
When the turbulent solar winds are particularly strong, this can cause a major outbreak of the Northern Lights.
Read more in detail about the Northern Lights on our Information page.
NOAA’s OVATION Map
NOAA’s Current Aurora Borealis Forecast for the Northern Hemisphere
NOAA’s Oval Variation, Assessment, Tracking, Intensity, and Online Nowcasting (OVATION) Map can also help you to observe the activity of the aurora in real time. It shows 30 minutes aurora forecast for Northern and Southern hemispheres.
The map is updated daily around midnight (UTC).
It’s a good sign if you see thick areas of light yellow, orange or red on the OVATION Map. Light green color indicates a lower chance of auroral activity, while the spots in yellow, orange and red mean that chances of seeing the Northern Lights are very high.
Icelandic Met Office
On this website, you can see the forecast that gauges the Geomagnetic Activity level (Kp index).
Watch the scale on the right side of the page that ranges from 0 to 9, where 0 indicates that there’s very little geomagnetic activity, and 9 indicates an extreme geomagnetic storm.
The higher the activity index (Kp number), the more chances you have to witness the mesmerizing aurora borealis. Usually, it’s rare that the scale ranges higher than 8, so be sure to catch the sight of the dancing lights even at low Kp-index numbers.
Together with the cloud cover forecast, this map helps to detect the best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland.
The Kp number is a system to measure aurora’s strength. The Kp index was introduced by a German scientist Julius Bartels in 1939. The “Kennziffer Planetarische,” which translates loosely as “planetary index number,” measures the solar activity.
Take a look at this scale to size up your chances of seeing the Northern Lights:
0-2: Low, almost no activity. Even with such forecast, it’s still worth heading out if the sky is clear. Don’t give up!
2-3: Moderate activity, but there are good chances to catch a glimpse of the Aurora. This is the most common forecast. Hit the road!
4-6: A big solar storm is on the way, look forward to electrifying Northern Lights show!
7-9: Very uncommon, the sky will be on fire, and even the city’s light pollution won’t stop it!
The cloud forecast is crucial for Aurora watchers as the Northern Lights shine at their best when the sky is dark and partly clear. This map helps to indicate the areas that are less clouded.
The map of Iceland above retrieved from the Icelandic Met Office displays the current cloud cover forecast. White color marks areas with a clear sky, whereas the areas in green are cloudy. Even if the area is in light green, your hunt can still be successful, if the Aurora is active. Another option is to search for the gap in the clouds.
Note that the time zone on the map is set to UTC/GMT+0, according to local time in Iceland.
The forecast is updated around 6 p.m. (Icelandic time) daily so it’s best to keep a close eye on it before heading out on your hunt.
Be aware that the aurora borealis forecast in Iceland doesn’t give absolute certainty as to where and when the Northern Lights might appear, as natural phenomena are entirely out of our control.
However, here are some factors for you to consider that can increase your chances of viewing:
December has the longest periods of nighttime, around 19-20 hours. The shortest day of the year, winter solstice is only around 4 hours and this means 20 hours of darkness.
In January and November, the night is roughly around 11-12 hours.
In February and October, the night is around 9 hours.
Due to its proximity to the Arctic Circle, Iceland summertime is blessed with the near-Midnight Sun–however, this means that the aurora is rarely seen in the months of May, June or July. You have a much better chance of seeing it if you travel in winter than in summer.
Check the website www.timeanddate.com for accurate sunset and sunrise projections.
Luckily for you, if you don’t want to deal with the trouble of following the forecasts, Arctic Adventures offers loads of Northern Lights tours, where one of our local experts will make sure you’re in the right place, right time for the Aurora. The tour will save you time, the hassle and expenses of renting a car, and you’ll see and learn much more than you would on your own.
Once you’ve reached your destination, sit back, relax and get ready for the dancing lights!