Northern lights are present above Iceland nine days out of ten. Sound too good to be true? Well, technically it is correct but there are several factors to consider.
1. Darkness – it must be dark. In summer it is 24 hour daylight in Iceland.
2. Cloud cover – it must be clear to be able to see the northern lights since they exist far above the clouds.
3. Solar activity – there must be solar activity for particles to be ejected towards the Earth.
4. Solar cycle – the activity of the Sun performs in 11 year cycles. In 2010 a new cycle has just begun.
5. Magnetic field – the right magnetic conditions must prevail around the poles.
6. City lights – can be a problem if the northern lights are faint. Best is to drive away from the city to a dark secluded spot, wait and watch.
7. Moon – can also be a problem, especially when it is full, because it can be quite bright and it may overpower the light from the northern lights.
8. Timing – as mentioned before, the northern lights are elusive. One day they may occur for a minute, or dance in the sky for hours.
I’ve been giving northern lights tours for decades and always enjoy the last one just as much as the first one.