Decrypting the Northern Lights forecasts

If you work with tourists, one of the most common questions heard from our guests in the wintertime might be: “Is tonight a good night to see the northern lights?”. The answer to that question however can be somewhat complicated. The first reaction might be to look at the northern lights forecast for an answer. But how does this forecast actually work? And can it be relied upon? 

The northern lights happen because of charged particles traveling from the sun on the solar wind. As these particles enter the earth’s atmosphere they can react with the nitrogen and oxygen gasses they encounter and light up, causing the lights we see dancing in the sky. The more particles that manage to light up the brighter the lights we can see in the sky. However the amount of particles coming from the sun changes all the time and therefore there are some nights where almost no lights are seen, and others where the whole sky is bathed in dancing green and pink ribbons. There are forecasts out there that predict northern lights activity. Many of you might be familiar with the northern lights forecast from the Icelandic Meteorological Office on Like many other forecasts, the one on is based on something known as the KP index, which means that it will forecast aurora activity on a scale from 0-9.

Do you want to know everything about forecasting northern lights? Read the article in We Guide January 2021.

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