Viðey Ferry:

All Viðey ferry departures have been suspended until further notice!

Information

HOW TO: determine if we should sail or not?

Thu, 11/07/2019 - 18:33

If you've never read an aurora forecast before it may be a bit overwhelming at first glance. Lucky for you, we are experts in northern lights hunting and know exactly what to look for! Every day (from September to April), our team of experts cross check a few forecasts to see if everthing is in order and if the conditions are right for aurora viewing. All the while keeping in mind of course that they are a natural phenomenon that can't really be guaranteed. So why do we even look at these things in the first place?

As we are a boat tour operator, we genearlly have to look into a few more things that other operators would not necessarily have to. First we have to make sure that the conditions at sea are safe and right for this kind of activity. We need to check how long the swell is, if the wind speed is acceptable, look into the wind direction (this can make a big difference in an open bay like Faxaflói) among other things.

Then we check the Kp index. And what is that, you might be thinking? The Kp index is a global geomagnetic activity measurement system that ranges from 0-9 whereas the lowest activity is 0 and 9 means that there is a very intense geomagnetic storm happening. And how does this 'predict' the northern lights exactly? To put it simply, the auroras are nothing but collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter earth's atmosphere. A solar storm therefore usually means pretty good chances of high aurora activity levels and the index measures exactly that!

Now, if the sea conditions are right and the weather forecast is good, the clouds are not too heavy and the Kp index is 2 or above, then our tour will most definitely be ON! We have been running tours of this kind for years and years and know from our own experience that the forecast is not always 100% correct and the conditions can change in mere minutes - that's why we will always sail out as long as conditions are good enough to do so. This gives our customers the opportunity to test their luck, especially when they don't have so many days to spare in Iceland.

No success with the lights? Well, that can happen, this is a natural phenomenon after all. In this case we would offer a FREE ticket to try again another night until they finally appear. You could go again the following night, the week after or a year or two later - we maximise your chances by offering you that guarantee of running our tour whenever possible!

Every day we post updates in our online Northern Lights Diary about that same night's sea conditions and tour status and even sometimes information on future cruises. There you will also find details relating to cloud coverage, moon status (waxing / waning and illumination percentage), temperature (in celcius), wind direction, aurora activity levels (Kp index) etc. Everything you need to know before going out on an aurora hunt!

Want to try 'predicting tonight's' probability yourself? Check out the University of Alaska Fairbanks' daily prognosis of geomagnetic activity or the Icelandic Met Office's for cloud forecast and aurora activity level and see what you can figure out!

Can't get enough of the northern lights? Read our "Northern Lights Explained" article and find out more information about the mystical dancing lights in the night sky.