Northern lights in Iceland

The Impact of Climate Change on Northern Lights

Northern lights are a natural phenomenon produced by solar winds, which blow electronic particles into molecules of atmospheric gases, causing bright light emission. While solar activity occurs year-round, there must be dark skies to view auroras, which means the winter months are the time to search for northern lights in Iceland. 

Does Climate Change Impact Auroras?

Climate change can impact the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis. While the connection between climate change and the Northern Lights is not as direct as some other climate-related phenomena, there are several ways in which changes in the earth’s climate can affect this natural wonder.

Ways in Which the Climate Affects Northern Lights

Northern lights in Iceland

Magnetic Field Changes

The northern lights are primarily caused by charged particles from the sun interacting with the earth’s magnetic field. Changes in the earth’s magnetic field due to climate change can alter the auroras’ patterns and intensity.

Atmospheric Changes

Climate change can lead to shifts in atmospheric conditions, including changes in humidity, temperature, and air composition. These changes may indirectly affect the behaviour and visibility of the Aurora Borealis. For instance, increased cloud cover or altered atmospheric conditions could obstruct the view of the auroras.

Solar Activity

Solar activity as depicted in the Arora film at Perlan museum

Solar activity plays a significant role in the frequency and intensity of the northern lights. While solar activity is not directly related to climate change, understanding and predicting these solar events are crucial for predicting auroras. Climate change may not directly affect solar activity, but it can impact our ability to monitor and predict it accurately.

Geomagnetic Storms

Intense geomagnetic storms, which can enhance the northern lights displays, are often associated with solar activity. While climate change doesn’t directly cause these storms, it can indirectly influence them by altering the earth’s magnet and ionosphere conditions.

Impact on Viewing Opportunities

As the earth’s climate changes, it may lead to shifts in the regions where the northern lights are typically visible. Warmer temperatures and changing weather patterns could affect the best times and locations for observing the auroras.

Does Climate Change Have a Significant Impact on Auroras?

The relationship between climate change and the northern lights is complex and poorly understood. The primary drivers of the northern lights are solar activity and the earth’s magnetic field, which are influenced by factors beyond climate change. 

However, climate change can indirectly affect the northern lights by altering the earth’s atmosphere and magnetosphere conditions. Scientists continue to study these interactions to understand better how climate change may impact this natural phenomenon in the future. 

Where Can I Learn About Northern Lights in Reykjavík?

Perlan northern lights Arora

Perlan’s Northern Lights Show, Áróra, is a breathtaking film about northern lights. The film includes many stories, combining science and art to create a unique guest experience. At Perlan, you can learn how northern lights form, hear fascinating tales about them and see fantastic displays. In Icelandic nature and outer space, the northern lights virtually dance around you.

Perlan is home to Iceland’s only planetarium and uses a state-of-the-art 8K projection system and surround sound system to bring you the full spectrum of the magical story of the northern lights.

When is the Best Time of Year to see the Northern Lights?

One of Iceland’s most popular winter attractions is searching for the otherworldly northern lights. The best time to see northern lights is from late August to early April, and there are forecasts predicting visibility on the Icelandic Met Office ( While not common, it’s possible to see northern lights in late August if the conditions are right.  

How to See the Northern Lights in Reykjavík

Northern lights from the deck of Perlan

To increase your chance of seeing the auroras, it's crucial to stay away from major artificial lighting. Fortunately, the vast expanses and low population density of Iceland make this simple. Experienced tour guides are adept at finding spots with clear skies, offering visitors an optimal opportunity to view the auroras.

How Can I Increase my Chances of Seeing Northern Lights in Iceland?

The conditions must be favourable, with no cloud cover and intense solar activity. If the forecast is good, it is essential to be far from artificial light sources, such as street lamps; you want to be near open spaces.


Northern lights in Iceland

Why is aurora activity stronger close to the equinoxes?

Due to the earth’s axis, as the planet rotates around the sun, the angle of the earth’s magnetic fields changes. During the optimum time, which occurs during the equinoxes, magnetic fissures open up that allow solar particles out, setting off an auroral storm cycle, which creates a higher probability of northern light sightings.

How can I increase my chances of seeing northern lights in Iceland?

For an excellent chance to see northern lights in Iceland, travel during the winter, stay for several nights in Iceland, monitor aurora forecasts, join tours, and most importantly, be patient. Sometimes, you may need to wait for the auroras to appear.

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