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Can you see the aurora through clouds?


Last fall I saw the Northern Lights 6 times from August to December.

And I missed approximately 20 auroras during the same period! Reason: CLOUDS.


Aurora shining through the clouds while a train lights up the railroad track. Location: Nykarleby, Finland.

In general, clouds are spoiling the Northern Lights experience. The Aurora Borealis occur on an altitude of 100–400 kilometers. This means that clouds are always in the way, like a curtain that prevents you from seeing all the magic that happens up there.

Many people have had their aurora trips ruined because of cloudy weather. The best advice for people travelling north to see the Northern Lights is: Go for the destination not only for the Northern Lights.


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In other words, chose a destination that has other interesting things to see and do and do not only think about seeing the aurora borealis, because you may get very disappointed if it's inactive or if it happens to be cloudy.


Winter in my town, Nykarleby, can be stunningly beautiful even on a cloudy day.


Nykarleby is a small town with many beautiful wooden houses.

However, a week ago the aurora proved to be strong enough to shine through clouds. I have not seen that happen very often, but if the clouds are thin and the aurora is strong it is obviously possible.

Normally I check the weather forecast before I go to the aurora forecasts. It's frustrating to see a high Kp index, which increases the chance of the Northern Lights to appear, and then find out that the weather will prevent you from seeing it.

I may have to change my mind about that.

You can always hope for the kind of cloudy sky where there are holes where the aurora can be spotted. That, however, is not the ideal situation. A clear sky is, of course, to prefer.


It's happening. But only above the clouds. (Photo by Bengt Gästgivars)

So …

Can you see the northern lights through clouds?

Yes, sometimes you can. When the cloud cover is thin and the aurora is strong enough.

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