Northern Lights Forecast for the Lofoten Islands | Guide to Lofoten

NORTHERN LIGHTS FORECAST FOR LOFOTEN & Tromso

The Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon that is hard to predict, yet some forecasts can give us an idea of when the Northern Lights will be active or how big an event we can expect. When checking the Northern Lights forecast in Lofoten and Tromso, or anywhere else, you need to:

✅ Look at the space weather (to see if the Northern Lights might be active) 

✅ And, more importantly, at the local weather (to see if the sky will be clear and you will get an unobstructed view of the Northern Lights).

In this article, we will walk you through different space weather and local weather forecasts that you can look at while chasing the Northern Lights in Lofoten.

Are you planning to explore the Lofoten Islands by a car?

The importance of Space weather and local weather forecasts

Space weather forecasts tell us about things happening on the Sun, like significant solar events that make the Northern Lights happen. They help us guess when we might see the Northern Lights. 

Local weather forecasts are important, too, because they tell us if the sky will be clear enough to see the Northern Lights. Even if there are lots of Northern Lights, you won’t be able to see them if it’s cloudy. 

So, you need to look at both space weather and the local weather to have the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights.

Aurora Forecast for Lofoten & Tromso: Importance of clear skies

Clouds typically form in the lowest layer of the Earth’s atmosphere, extending to about 6 to 20 kilometers (4 to 12 miles) above the Earth’s surface. In contrast, the Aurora Borealis occurs in the Earth’s thermosphere, a much higher layer that starts about 80 kilometers (50 miles) above the Earth and extends up to 600 kilometers (372 miles) or more.

Because the aurora occurs well above the cloud layer, any cloud cover will obstruct our view from the ground, hiding the northern lights display.

To sum it up, clear skies are a prerequisite for observing the Northern Lights; without them, the aurora remains invisible, hidden behind the cloud cover.

Low, Middle, and High clouds

Low, middle, and high clouds are categorized based on their altitude in the atmosphere. Low clouds form below 2,000 meters, middle clouds between 2,000 and 6,000 meters, and high clouds above 6,000 meters. 

For Northern Lights forecasting, low and middle clouds are more significant as they can obstruct the view from the ground. High clouds, being thinner, sometimes allow for visibility of the Northern Lights, but clear skies are always best. 

Northern Lights Forecast Lofoten: Importance of Low, Middle and High Clouds

Are you looking for activities in Lofoten, Tromsø, Oslo or Alta?

Weather forecast for Northern Lights in Lofoten & Tromso

When forecasting the weather in Lofoten for Northern Lights viewing, our three popular choices are yr.no, windy.com, and meteologix.

Yr.no Weather Forecast

Yr.no is a weather forecasting app and website developed by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute in collaboration with the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. 

It was designed explicitly with the Norwegian market in mind, but it offers forecasts for millions of places worldwide. 

Yr.no provides detailed weather information, including hourly and long-term forecasts, graphs, and the latest weather observations. Yr.no’s predictions are based on a combination of different weather models, offering high-resolution data for Scandinavia and Norway in particular.

How do we use yr.no for forecasting the Northern Lights in Lofoten? 
 

Yr.no is our go-to app for weather forecasts in Lofoten. On a day-to-day basis, when we’re only interested in the weather, we use the main screen to check precipitation and wind strength. 

 

However, the main concern for the Northern Lights forecast is cloud coverage. Therefore, you must navigate the upper menu and select ‘detaljer.’ Then, you will see cloud coverage on the right side of the table. You need to focus mainly on low cloud cover (‘Lave %’) and middle cloud cover (‘Mellomh. %’).” 

Northern Lights Forecast Lofoten: Detailed weather forecast for Lofoten from yr.no showing cloud coverage
Detailed weather forecast provided by yr.no that we use to check the cloud coverage

Meteologix Weather Forecast

The Kachelmann Group, which includes Meteologix AG, was founded by Joerg Kachelmann, a professional meteorologist who started his career in Switzerland. Over the years, the company has evolved from traditional weather forecasting for TV and print media to developing cutting-edge weather technologies.

Their work in meteorology also extends to creating various weather portals that offer free access to high-quality weather information. These portals are designed to be user-friendly, making weather data understandable to the general public. 

How do we use Meteologix for forecasting the Northern Lights in Lofoten & Tromso? 
 

Our friend, a Northern Lights guide in Tromso, showed us Meteologix earlier this year. He says it is much more precise than Windy. However, for Lofoten, we use it only for a general overview of the cloud coverage of the whole region, as you cannot zoom into the map, and the default view shows you an area covering the Nordland region.

Northern Lights Forecast Lofoten: weather forecast by meteologix showing the cloud coverage over the Lofoten Islands
Meteologix weather forecast for Nordland county. The Lofoten Islands are very small on this map (upper area of the picture around Leknes)
meteologix weather forecast for tromso county_aurora forecast tromso_x
Meteologix weather forecast for Tromso county

Windy.com Weather Forecast

Windy is a weather forecasting app created by a team in Prague, Czechia. It integrates real-time observations with model data and offers a variety of weather-related information.

Key features include wind information, temperature, cloud cover, and weather warnings. Windy stands out for its ability to let users view weather parameters at different atmospheric heights.

While it doesn’t create its own forecasts, Windy uses models like ECMWF, GFS, and NAM, providing detailed weather forecasts that can be relevant for locations like Lofoten.

Tip: You can also use Ventusky as an alternative to Windy. 

How do we use Windy for forecasting the Northern Lights in Lofoten? 
 

We use Windy to display the cloud cover over the Lofoten Islands. We choose the ‘low clouds’ icon in the right menu in the desktop version. We struggled with interpreting the default colors, so we changed them to red, meaning high cloud coverage, and green, meaning low cloud coverage.

Weather forecast by windy.com showing the cloud coverage over the Lofoten Islands
Cloud cover for the Lofoten Islands
windy weather forecast for tromso county_aurora forecast tromso_6
Cloud cover for the surroundings of Tromso

Are you at the planning stage of your trip to the Lofoten Islands?

What is a Space Weather?

I will keep it simple: Space Weather is about what happens in the space between the Sun and Earth and can affect things all over the solar system.

When it comes to space weather, many different terms are used, which may need help understanding.

 

This video explains nicely what the Space weather is. 

So, let’s break it down into simple terms:

Sun Storms: Think of these as storms on the Sun, similar to thunderstorms on Earth, but much bigger and more powerful. Solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are types of sunstorms. 

 

Sunspots: These are cooler, darker spots on the Sun’s surface. They’re important because they can be areas where sun storms start.

 

Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs): These are large expulsions of plasma and magnetic field from the Sun’s corona. They can eject billions of tons of coronal material into space at high speeds.

 

Solar Flares: These are sudden, intense bursts of radiation caused by the release of magnetic energy from the Sun’s atmosphere. They are the most powerful explosions in our solar system and can release enormous amounts of energy in just a few minutes.

 

Gain a better understanding of what solar flares are.

Learn about the difference between Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) and Solar Flares.

Solar Wind: This is a stream of charged particles flowing from the Sun into space. It’s always there but can be stronger and more intense when there are coronal holes or after solar flares and CMEs.

 

 

Coronal Holes: These are areas on the Sun where the solar wind (a stream of charged particles) escapes more easily into space.

 

 

So, all these things are connected. Sunspots can lead to solar flares and CMEs, which can change the solar wind. All these activities together make up space weather, which can have effects all the way here on Earth and beyond.

Now that you understand the basic terms used in connection with space weather check out this video on how the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis) are created.

Space weather forecast for Northern Lights viewing

As weak solar winds constantly reach the Earth, small, weak Aurora Borealis displays are often seen in Lofoten, weather permitting. In contrast, more significant magnetic storms that cause strong auroral displays are rare and hard to predict.

 

 

There are four main types of Aurora Forecasts:

 

✅ The 11-year solar cycle forecast

✅ The 27-day Aurora forecast

✅ The 3-day Aurora forecast

✅ The 30-minute Aurora forecast 

 

The 11-year solar cycle forecast

Throughout the Sun’s natural 11-year cycle, it alternates between calm and stormy phases. At its most active phase, known as the solar maximum, the Sun is dotted with sunspots, and its magnetic poles reverse. Imagine if the Earth’s North and South Poles switched places every decade – that’s what happens on the Sun. 

Conversely, during the solar minimum, sunspots are scarce. Often during this phase, the Sun appears as smooth and unblemished as an egg yolk.

We’re moving toward a time of more solar activity called the solar maximum. This means we’ll likely see more amazing Northern Lights in the next few years. Also, because the Sun will be more active, the Northern Lights might be seen at lower latitudes than usual.

Northern Lights Forecats Lofoten - 11 year aurora cycle
SOLAR CYCLE PROGRESSION by SPACE WEATHER PREDICTION CENTER NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION

The 27-day Aurora forecast

Active regions and Coronal Holes on the Sun can persist for several months. As the Sun rotates, these areas may repeatedly face Earth. Their consistent presence means that geomagnetic and auroral activity levels can be similar every solar rotation (27 days).

If geomagnetic activity and aurora were observed 27 days ago, there’s a good chance of similar activity occurring today, with a day or two of variation.

This pattern allows for a certain level of predictability in forecasting auroral activity based on previous solar rotations.

Aurora Borealis Forecast Lofoten: The 27-day geomagnetic activity forecast
The 27-day geomagnetic activity forecast by NOAA and SpaceWeatherLive.com

The 3-day Aurora forecast

The solar wind typically takes about 1 to 3 days to reach the Earth after being released from the Sun. The exact time depends on the speed of the solar wind, which can vary. The 3-day Northern Lights forecast incorporates this information.

It predicts geomagnetic activity based on when the solar wind, potentially intensified by events like solar flares or coronal mass ejections, is expected to interact with the Earth’s magnetic field.

In terms of precision, while the 3-day aurora forecast provides a good general idea of potential auroral activity, it’s not always exact due to the changes in speed and density of the solar wind as it travels towards Earth.

Nevertheless, despite its limitations, the 3-day Kp forecast, combined with weather and cloud coverage predictions, can be a helpful tool for planning aurora viewing in the upcoming nights.

Northern Lights Forecast Lofoten: The 3-day geomagnetic activity forecast
The 3-day geomagnetic activity forecast by NOAA

The 30-minute Aurora forecast

The first Lagrange point (L1), located about 1.5 million kilometers from Earth in the direction of the Sun, is a unique space where the Earth’s and Sun’s gravitational forces balance with centripetal forces. This allows satellites stationed there to remain almost stationary relative to Earth without expending much fuel. 

Several satellites positioned at the Lagrange point provide critical solar wind measurements, including its density, velocity, and magnetic field. 

The data gathered there give us advance notice of the conditions the solar wind will have when it reaches near Earth, typically a few tens of minutes later. 

This real-time data is invaluable for making accurate, short-term forecasts of auroral activity. 

The 3-day geomagnetic activity forecast by NOAA

Aurora forecast is not 100% precise

It’s exciting to track space weather and discover the events that can trigger significant northern lights displays, such as Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) or solar flares. However, the observation of a CME or solar flare on the sun doesn’t necessarily guarantee a strong aurora on Earth.

Here are some reasons why:

❌ The CME was not aimed directly at Earth.

❌ The CME didn’t generate any significant geomagnetic activity.

❌ The shockwave arrives during daylight hours in your area.

❌ Even if the activity was triggered and it was nighttime, unfavorable weather conditions can hinder aurora visibility.

Space weather forecast: Expected geomagnetic storm did not happen
Aurora forecast Lofoten and Tromso: CME didnt hit Earth

Are you planning to visit Lofoten in winter?

Factors to Consider When Planning a Trip to See the Northern Lights in Norway

✅ Time of Year: In Norway, the best time to see the Northern Lights is from September to early April. In the rest of the year, the sky is too bright and the northern lights are not visible. 

✅ Geographical Location: Areas further north, above the Arctic Circle, such as Tromsø or the Lofoten Islands, are the best locations for viewing the Northern Lights.

✅ Lenght of Stay: The longer you stay, the higher chances you have! Sometimes we have stormy weather that lasts days. 

Factors To Consider When Chasing the Northern Lights on location

✅ Local Weather: Always check the local weather forecast to ensure clear skies.

✅ Short Term Aurora Forecast:
You might want to check the 30-minute aurora forecast for parameters such as the solar wind’s speed and density, as well as the orientation of the interplanetary magnetic field. I will explain more what these parameters mean in an upcoming article.

❌ Exact Time: While forecasts can predict the likelihood of auroral activity, predicting the exact time to the minute is challenging. The aurora can be visible for a few minutes or several hours.

❌ Moon Phase: A less bright moon (new moon or crescent moon) is preferable as it reduces light pollution in the sky. But it is not a big deal when it comes to the aurora viewing. 

Kp Index: At high latitudes, such as in Tromso or in the Lofoten Islands, auroral activity can be observed even during lower geomagnetic activity. This means that areas like Lofoten can experience auroras even when the Kp index is relatively low.

Beautiful 360-degree pictures by our friend Martin Kulhavy. Lofoten really are a paradise for photographers!

Final Thoughts On the Northern Lights Forecast for Lofoten

Seeing the Northern Lights is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for anyone who doesn’t live near the Arctic Circle. If this is on your bucket list and you want to organize your dream trip to Lofoten (or Tromsø, or really, any part of northern Norway), we hope you find this guide helpful.

 

Unfortunately, there is never a guarantee that you will see the northern lights. After all, we have no control over weather variables. However, you can plan your trip around factors that can be predicted in advance, particularly the time of year and the right location.

 

Our best advice is to stay as long as you can afford in the Arctic region. The longer you are there, the greater your chances of seeing the lights. If there is one thing you should factor into your planning, spend at least four days in the Arctic region… and don’t travel in summer!

 

With good planning, a bit of luck with the weather, and allowing for an extended stay in the region, you significantly increase your chances of seeing the Northern Lights for yourself.

Guided Northern Lights Tours in Tromso

In 2005, five companies sold Northern Lights products in Tromsø. Nowadays, there are more than 100 tour providers have northern lights tours in their portfolio, which does make it challenging to choose the best northern lights tour.  

However, there are few significant differences between northern light tours from different providers. For example, they all operate with the same weather and aurora forecast, and the guides from other companies share information with each. Therefore, the success between companies might be less than you think. 

We believe that there is no “one-size-fits-all” tour that is best for everybody; that’s why we discuss various aspects such as group size, price, type of vehicle, etc in the article on how to choose the best northern lights tour in Tromso. 

👉 Did you leave booking an aurora hunting tour to the last minute? Check what is currently available in Tromsø.

Guided Northern Lights Tours in Lofoten

Lofoten is a spectacular location for watching and photographing the Northern Lights. However, unlike Tromsø, where over 100 companies offer Northern Lights tours, options in Lofoten are more limited. Only a few local companies provide tours using vans and minibuses, with the majority based in Svolvær.

We can recommend Lofoten Lights or Svinøya Rorbuer, both based in Svolvær. 

 

Tips for chasing the northern lights in Lofoten

Of course, you don’t need to go on a guided tour to see the Northern Lights. If you’re lucky, the aurora might be strong enough to be visible even from the center of Svolvaer.

 However, a tour guide will drive you to a location with the best possible weather and cloud cover and can help set up your camera or phone or take pictures for you.

Remember these important tips if you choose to chase the Northern Lights on your own: 

Be Patient: Sometimes, just frequently checking the sky or spending an evening outside is enough.

Dress Appropriately: Prepare for cold nights. Check our article on what to pack for Lofoten in winter.

Drive Carefully: The winter roads in Lofoten can be treacherous. If you are not used to drive on ice and snow, go for a guided tour. 

Choose a Strategic Location: Opt for a spot with an open view towards the north (Skagsanden, Uttakleiv). The location may vary based on the strength of the aurora.

Prepare Your Equipment: Charge your phone and camera batteries, bring a tripod, and familiarize yourself with night photography settings.

Safety First: Wear a reflective vest or clothes if you’re near a road to avoid accidents. Every winter, we meet photographers who wear dark clothes with no reflective things and who stand too close to the road or even in the middle of the road, eg, on the road to Nusfjord.  

Thank you for taking the time to read through our article about the northern lights forecast in Lofoten and Tromso.

If you found our guide helpful, we would be grateful if you could share it with fellow travelers.

Best regards from Lofoten, Radka and Ivar.

PS: If you still have any questions about the Northern Lights, feel free to ask us in the comments. We’re here to help and happy to provide answers.

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Ivar & Radka

Ivar & Radka

Hi! We are Ivar & Radka, an international couple who runs the Guide to Lofoten. We met in Trondheim and lived together in western Norway, Narvik and Tromsø. At the moment we call western Lofoten our home. We hope our page will make it easier for you to explore the beautiful places that made us chose Norway for our home.

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