Einar Þór Gustafsson

Espresso and whisky drinking foodie that likes to run up mountains and swim in the cold ocean. Co-founder of Getlocal 

3 minute read 06 Sep 2017

Best tools to find the northern lights

The northern lights are a tricky thing and as much as we would like to be able to control them we all know that we are dealing with nature and nature pretty much does what she wants.

Luckily we also have a few scientists that have spent a lot of time trying to understand all of this and some nice people have put together websites and apps that we can use to see when and where the northern lights are on… well most likely at least.

1. Icelandic Met Office

http://en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/aurora/

The Icelandic Met Office has a pretty cool website where they show the strength of the activity and also the cloud cover over Iceland. This can be a pretty good indicator of where it’s best to be and if the clouds will be interfering or not with the visibility.

Pros:

  • Shows cloud coverage
  • Very simple and clear indication of strength (KPP value)

Cons:

  • Doesn’t work great on mobile phones or tablets
  • Shows only 3 day forecast

Screenshot from the Icelandic Met office northern lights forecast

2. Astronomy website of Iceland

https://www.stjornufraedi.is/stjornuskodun/naeturhimininn/nordurljosaspa

A personal project by some smart people that are really intro astronomy, they know a lot about the northern lights and give a really detailed explanation about what is happening and the physics behind it but unfortunately their website is in Icelandic only. But you can translate it into your language of choice using Google translate

Pros:

  • Very detailed information about what is happening
  • 7 day aurora forecoast

Cons:

  • In Icelandic only
  • No cloud coverage

The astronomy website of Iceland northern lights info site

3. Northern lights Alerts App

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/northern-lights-alerts/id1041324284?mt=8

This is an app created in Iceland and is designed to send out alerts that are within a range that you set. This is a great tool that will alert if you somebody is seeing the northern lights, you can also alert everybody else if you see them.

Pros:

  • Free app and free service
  • Easy to setup
  • Alerts you if the northern lights are visible

Cons:

  • No forecast
  • Needs your location to be used

Icelandic northern lights alerts app

4. Northern lights watch Facebook groups

In Icelandic: https://www.facebook.com/groups/northernlightswatch/

In English: https://www.facebook.com/groups/154848124616342/

An Icelandic Facebook group where locals share what they are seeing and where, also show photos from recent sights. Very active with many members.

Pros:

  • Many active members around Iceland

Cons:

  • Icelandic group is mostly in Icelandic
  • The English group also has posts from other countries

Northern lights watch Facebook group

5. AuroraNow App

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/aurora-now-northern-lights/id1037695306?mt=8

Nice app that shows you what’s happening right now but also gives you an hourly forecast. Has some technical metrics that we don’t even understand but it’s hard to read what’s happening tonight and shows no information on cloud cover.

Pros:

  • Clear 3 day forecast
  • Clear “now” probability

Cons:

  • Have to pay for alerts
  • Very technical
  • Doesn't emphasize tonight

AuroraNow probability forecast

6. Solarham

http://solarham.net/

Just a notable mention, we don’t use it personally as it’s way to complicated but for those that like this kind of stuff it could be gold :)

Conclusion

The good old Met office with the simple KPP measure and cloud forecast is really all we need. We do recommend combining some of these tools to get timely alerts and to plan ahead.

So no matter if you are booking a northern lights tour with us or heading out hunting on your own we do hope these resources are helpful.

Don’t forget to check out our northern lights guide for more information

 

 

 

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