How to Predict the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) Forecast

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Lapland is one of the best places to view the Northern lights (or aurora borealis). While they can be viewed from different cities, villages, resorts, or the middle-of-no-where in the wilderness, no one likes to stand outside in sub-zero temperatures and stare at the sky and have no auroras appear, right?

So how do you know if auroras will dance in the night sky or not - how do you predict if the Northern Lights will appear?

Luckily, there are scientific resources available on the web that you can access to see what the aurora forecast will be for a particular day, and a few are listed below. Before you check them out, have a read about where the Northern Lights come from first to get a basic idea about what these resources are going to talk about (what are solar winds??). Some resources to visit include:

While these resources will give you predictions for aurora activity on any given day, there are still factors which effect the visibility of the northern lights and whether you will be able to see them or how visible they will be, for example:

  • The weather - what conditions are the best for viewing?
  • How much competing light there is - can I see auroras in the city?

No clouds and a clear night sky are the best conditions you can get for viewing auroras so even if you have a forecast of maximum aurora activity, you probably won't be able to see them if you also have a forecast of a cloudy sky overnight. Here are a few places to see weather forecasts in Lapland:

Competing light refers to all of the artificial light (street lamps, building lights, etc.) that surround the area where you are trying to view the northern lights from. If you are in the middle of the woods and its very dark, the auroras will be more clearer to see and colors will be brighter. If you are in the city, the auroras may appear dimmer since their visibility competes with all other artificial light that is surrounding you. To see them in the city, it helps if solar wind activity is strong. Below is what auroras can look like over Rovaniemi, Lapland on a clear night with a strong aurora forecast.
Northern LIghts Over Rovaniemi, Finland
If the aurora forecast is low or weak over your location, yet the weather forecast is for a clear night sky, its sometimes worth going out to try and view northern lights that can appear on the low northern horizon as solar wind activity may still be strong to the north.