What are your chances of seeing northern lights in Iceland

In order to see the northern lights in Iceland you need to know when you can have the highest chances of seeing northern lights in Iceland, or at least how you can increase your chances of seeing the northern lights.

Aurora Borealis chances of seeing northern lights in Iceland
Aurora Borealis chances to see Northern Lights in Iceland

When are the northern lights in Iceland most visible ?

The period when you have the highest chance of seeing the northern lights in Iceland is from September to October and around March. This is the period with the highest Solar Activity, when your chances increase also because there is more dark time during these months and they are the closest to Equinox times.

Grotta Northern Lights Iceland Aurora Borealis
Grotta Northern Lights Iceland Aurora Borealis
See also these articles that will help you choose the best time to visit Iceland for Northern Lights:

Where can you find the most accurate aurora forecast for Iceland ?

The Icelandic Met Office is the one that measures the solar activity in Iceland.

They also provide a weather forecast mostly related to cloud cover that will help you understand two things:

  • If aurora borealis will be visible tonight
  • Where are the best spots with clear sky where you can see it

Once you understand this, if the Aurora Forecast KP is over 2 and you found a clear sky, that is the spot where you have the highest chances of seeing northern lights in Iceland.

How to read the northern lights forecast

Once you are on the website for aurora forecast in Iceland – https://en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/aurora/#type=composite, you will see something like this:

Iceland Cloud Cover map for Northern Lights
Iceland Cloud Cover map for Northern Lights

Make sure the “composite” tab is selected. Then use the slider below the map to see the cloud forecast at different times of the day and different days.

Though they do not specify here is the legend for the colours used on the cloud forecast:

  • Green represents the low and mid-level clouds
  • Blue means lower clouds
  • Red represents the middle clouds
  • Orange is the high Clouds

Important: Green on the map is not Aurora Borealis it represents clouds. You have to look for the withe patches as it means clear sky in that area.

Everything that is white on those maps translates into clear skies so those are the spots where you can see the northern lights in Iceland if the solar activity is high enough.

To check the solar activity and Aurora Forecast, look in the top right corner where it states “Aurora Forecast” and you will see a scale, a row of numbers from 0 to 9:

0-2: Low, little to no activity. Anything green you see might look as pale as a cloud
2-3: Moderate, but you have good chances of catching Aurora Borealis. This forecast is more usual. You should go out if KP if above 2.
4-6: Great! A big solar storm is on its way. Don’t miss your chance of seeing Aurora Borealis
7-9: Highly unusual! Maybe your friends and relatives at home can see the Northern Lights too, as it is visible from everywhere.

On the right side of the map, you are provided with Sunrise and Sunset times as well as Moonrise time. Important to know that all times provided are the valid times for Reykjavik.

There is even the actual darkness time available for you so you can better prepare your trip to see the northern lights in Iceland.

Properly reading the weather factors is an easy way to analyze and increase your chances of seeing the Iceland Aurora.

How weather can increase your chances of seeing northern lights in Iceland

The spectacle of Northern Lights requires a dark sky and as cloud clear as possible.

But these are not the only factors you should consider, because even if the Aurora forecast is higher than 3 and you have a clear sky, if the roads are blocked because of high speed winds or because of heavy snowfall, you are stranded inside the city, so that means you have a chance of not seeing anything because of light pollution.

Please bear in mind that in Iceland weather can suddenly chance and you are dependant on the weather forecast to be able to see the Northern Lights.

Sudden weather changes are also available daily in the Iceland weather website where strong winds, or heavy snowfall will be announced so you better can plan ahead your trip.

Here is an example of strong wind yellow warning for Iceland that affected almost the entire island.

Iceland Weather Strong Wind
Iceland Weather Strong Wind

If you travel in winter and wish to see the Northern Lights on your own, it is advisable to rent a 4×4 car in Iceland. You will thank me if there is a heavy snowfall during your trip. Renting a 4×4 vehicle does not mean you take it because you wish to do off-road, you rent it because you wish to have a safe trip and overcome some of the weather elements that would otherwise be impossible to overcome in a small car or other similar vehicle.

Choose the 4×4 vehicle that fits you best, and get the best price today.
CAR RENTAL BUTON

Cloud cover decreases your chances of seeing northern lights in Iceland

When we first looked at the cloud cover map on vedur.is we thought that green means that Aurora is present. Don’t make the same mistake we did, the color you should be looking for is the white space and an aurora forecast of minimum 3.

Low and Mid level clouds Iceland Northern Lights
Low and Mid level clouds Iceland Northern Lights

Though high clouds are not so important, the most important clouds that could block you from seeing the northern lights in Iceland are the low and mid-level clouds. There is even a special tab section on the weather website evidencing them out, called “low and mid level clouds”.

If on the “green map” you are in a white spot and KP is at least 2, you have a chance of seeing the northern lights tonight.

Solar activity influencing your chances of seeing northern lights

Aurora is all about Solar activity, as the Sun is the one that generates the particles that interfere with Earth’s magnetic field and turn into a beautiful dancing lights of green, blue, magenta and yellow colors on the black clear sky of Iceland.

There are two things that can cause auroras, both coming from the sun:

  • Solar flares
  • Coronal mass ejection (CME)

The solar flares are produced by the highly active portions of the Sun’s surface. They are sudden, localized in regions and increase the brightness of the Sun. Rarely a solar flare can couple with a coronal mass ejection (CME).

Coronal Mass Ejection Northern Lights
Coronal Mass Ejection Northern Lights

The coronal mass ejection is an electromagnetic discharge of matter that ejects radiation into space. This magnetized plasma is composed of electrons and protons. If the CME is aimed in the Earth’s direction, there are chances of seeing northern lights in Iceland.

Why is Leirvogur Magnetic Observatory important ?

The Leirvogur Magnetic Observatory is measuring the magnetic disturbances that take place over Iceland. When there is solar magnetic winds activity in the Iceland’s atmosphere, the needle start moving creating a graph. This event is generally followed by bursts of Aurora activity in Iceland.

Northern Lights from Space
Northern Lights from Space

You can also check Space Weather Prediction Center – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at swpc.noaa.gov/products/aurora-30-minute-forecast for Aurora 30 minute forecast that is very accurate and will show you live images of where you can see northern lights in Iceland.

Aurora Forecast Iceland Today
Aurora Forecast Iceland Today

Book a guided northern lights tour

If you wish to fully enjoy the Northern Lights in Iceland experience I recommend you to book a guided tour. It will manage everything for you, so you will have worries, other than photographing the Aurora Borealis dancing in the sky.

Book a guided northern lights tour and see the northern lights in Iceland

The guides are always aware of the weather conditions, solar activity and aurora forecast so they will take you to the spots where you will have the hightest chances of seeing northern lights in iceland.

You will also be in nice company with other like-minded people looking for seeing the northern lights. Some guides even include hot cocoa while you wait for the aurora lights to show up.

Iceland Aurora Borealis Northern Lights
Iceland Aurora Borealis Northern Lights

Some of the guides for northern lights will even provide a second free of charge tour if you are unlucky during your tour and aurora doesn’t show up. Just take in consideration to book your tour when you get to Iceland, so in the unlucky event that you will not see the aurora, you have plenty of time to schedule another tour.

We highly recommend taking any of the tours below as we’ve carefully selected them based on their experience, high review rate from tourists and we know they are reliable and professional.

Iceland Northern Lights Bus Tour from Reykjavik

Experience one of the world’s most beautiful natural phenomenon on a 4-hour evening bus tour in Iceland.

Depart the bright lighting area of Reykjavik to search for the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis).

  • Duration 4 hours
  • Instant confirmation
  • Live tour guide English
  • Pickup optional
  • Free cancellation up to 24 hours before activity starts
Aurora Borealis Northern Lights Tour from Reykjavik

Northern Lights are a spectacular natural light phenomenon, often seen dancing around in green, pink, purple colors across the Icelandic Arctic sky.

You can spot them for yourself on this 3-hour tour from Reykjavik.

  • Duration 3 hours
  • Instant confirmation
  • Live tour guide English
  • Pickup optional
  • Free cancellation up to 24 hours before activity starts
Iceland Northern Lights Bus Tour

Head out to search for the elusive northern lights in a comfortable bus with a qualified and knowledgeable guide.

A hot cocoa cup will keep you warm while your guide tells you interesting stories about Iceland on your way!

  • Duration 4 hours
  • Instant confirmation
  • Live tour guide English
  • Pickup included
  • Free cancellation up to 24 hours before activity starts

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