If you’re planning a vacation to see the Northern Lights, you should know that some years are better than others for seeing the Aurora. Choose the right year to travel with our Northern Lights schedule 2020-2035.
Aurora Borealis or better known as Northern Lights has been called one of the “Seven Wonders of the Natural World” and by far the most magical. Hunting for Aurora Borealis is on every adventurer’s bucket list and for obvious reasons. To be under the Northern Lights is like being transported to a different world where colorful lights can be seen dancing in the sky to the tune of its own music as it hymns the night.
If Aurora hunting is on your bucket list, then having a Northern Lights schedule early on can definitely help you achieve success. Looking at the Aurora Borealis in photos can make you think that the spectacular dancing lights will always grace the Northern skies but that’s not always the case. As our sun continues its never-ending magnetic activity cycle, the frequency and intensity of this amazing natural wonder also change.
To make sure you don’t travel on a dud year, we’ve put together this schedule to help you plan your Northern Lights vacation on a year when you will have the best chance of seeing them.
What causes the Northern Lights?
Simply speaking, the sun causes the Aurora Borealis. As explained in our scientific explanation of the aurora borealis, the lights are triggered by solar activities that involve the electrical discharge of solar flares or solar winds. When the electrical discharge from the sun collides with our Earth’s atmosphere, the collision creates the Northern Lights.
Solar activity is variable and moves in 11 year cycles that we call Solar Cycles. Since solar activity directly influences auroral activity, it means the Northern Lights follow basically the same cycles.
When a solar cycle is at a peak, solar activity is most intense. The more intense the solar activity, the more active the Northern Lights. On the contrary, when the solar cycle is at a low, solar activity is calmer, and there is less Northern Lights activity.
Northern Lights Schedule 2020 to 2035
|HIGH (from Nov 2024)
|HIGH (until Mar 2026)
Source: Space Weather Prediction Center
What years will be BEST for viewing the Northern Lights (2020-2035)?
Best Years for Seeing Northern Lights:
November 2024 to March 2026
Chasing the Northern Lights will reward you with the most magical experience and although they can’t disappear, they can be very elusive. For this reason, it makes sense to align your Northern Lights vacation with those years when the Solar Cycle is at a peak. Currently, we are now at Solar Cycle 25 which is a new cycle that’s just heating up to a peak in a couple of years.
This is really exciting, because it means that we are approaching some really excellent years for seeing Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis.
According to the Solar Cycle Prediction Panel that represents National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA and National Weather Service, we can expect the current cycle to reach its peak between November 2024 to March 2026. The years 2024 to 2026 are the best years for viewing the Northern Lights in this cycle, and aligning your vacation to this Northern Lights schedule will give you the best chance to finally hunt Aurora.
What years will be WORST For viewing the Northern Lights (2020-2035)?
Worst Years for Seeing Northern Lights:
2020 to 2022 and 2029 to 2035
Since Solar Cycle 25 has just started, the solar activity will remain at a minimum until it becomes abundant again starting in the year 2024. From the years 2020 up to 2023, the Northern Lights will not be as easy to find as they can be elusive in this period. The new cycle commences with minimal solar activities until it will reach its peak and it is when we can expect the solar activities to be at maximum.
After the cycle peaks, the solar activities will then subside to give way to a new cycle. Solar cycle 25 will end in 2030 but based on the Solar Cycle Sunspot Number Progression Graph of ISES, the solar activity will continue to diminish until 2034. Since the sun can keep some long-term memory, it is highly likely that 2035 will be at an all-time low as well. In this light, the years 2027 up to 2035 will be WORST for viewing the Northern Lights due to the diminishing solar activities from the sun.
The years 2023, 2027 and 2028 will have a moderate level of activity since the cycle is neither at a peak nor low. If you are unable to plan your Northern Lights vacation on the peak years (2024-2026) then those years will be your next best choice.
How reliable are the Northern Lights predictions?
Scientists have been studying these solar activities for over 100 years and have developed ways to predict the occurrence of this spectacular phenomenon. Solar activities are measured in cycles and the progression of each cycle is then analyzed through radio flux and sunspot data.
The NOAA, NASA, National Weather Service and the rest of the Solar Cycle Prediction Panel cannot guarantee 100% reliability in their Northern Lights predictions as they do not yet have the technology to forecast the sun’s activity with 100% accuracy.
However, the forecast that they have provided can help us plan the best northern lights dates that we can mark on our northern lights calendar and hope for the best.
What are the best years to schedule a Northern Lights vacation?
If you’re planning to chase the Northern Lights, then the years 2024 to 2026 will be the best years for a vacation for you.
It is during this period that the sun’s activity is at its peak and solar storms will be more powerful than ever. The solar activity will then start to fall to a minimum starting March 2026 which is predicted to be the beginning of a long drought. From then on until 2035, the sun will be at its calmest, and the frequency, as well as the intensity of Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis, will be dramatically low.
Nothing compares to the beauty of the Northern Lights and the reason why people from the different parts of the world dream to see the Aurora Borealis’ spectacular display in the sky. For most people, traveling to finally see the Northern Lights is no easy feat. They have to plan ahead to prepare for a long flight and save some money to fund the travel.
The worst thing that could happen is to finally arrive at your Northern destination only to find how elusive the Northern Lights can be and cringe at the possibility that you may not see it at all in the whole duration of your stay.
Fortunately, there are experts in the field of science who have dedicated their lives to studying the phenomenon, and the data that they will gather are available for everyone. Although the predictions may not be 100% accurate, their forecast still lowers your chance of going on a vacation to see the Northern Lights with zero Aurora Borealis in the sky.
U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Space Weather Prediction Center, accessed 2022 https://www.swpc.noaa.gov/products/solar-cycle-progression
Comments. Our articles are not open to comments, however, if you have a correction, question or suggestion concerning this article, please Contact Us directly.