Can You See the Aurora through Clouds? – Part 2
Cloudy weather is a serious problem for aurora watchers. The auroral activity happens 70–400 kilometers above the ground. Clouds are always between you and the northern lights unless you’re travelling in an airplane.
The combination of auroras and clouds is not always hopeless.
I have dealt with the combination of clouds and the northern lights for years and I’ve discovered that there are a few things you can do that sometimes can solve the problem. These things are listen in this checklist that you can download for free.
But today I will tell the story about January 8–9 2022. Yes there were clouds, so if you face that problem you might learn something here. Please continue reading.
I always keep an eye on my northern lights app so I can be ready whenever the data is going up. On Saturday January 8 it started looking good in the late afternoon and continued to get better during the evening. But some crucial values were not yet reacting so I waited a little.
As soon as I had put my youngest son to bed, I and my 13 year old son (I have six children and sometimes one or two of them want to join me on my nightly adventures) took the car and went to a bog that I had visited during daytime a few months earlier. I knew it could work for aurora watching and photography.
We arrived at 10.30 PM and had to walk through deep snow until we reached the edge of the bog. It’s a surreal looking landscape with few trees that are small and crooked if not already dead.
I wasn't sure the bog was frozen under the snow so I did not dare to step onto it and risk sinking down and getting wet feet.
Quality time with one of my six kids. And I always bring hot chocolate. Always!
But there seemed to be a cloud covering the green action. We could see some light shapes behind the clouds and the camera showed them even more clearly. It was obvious that it was the Aurora Borealis.
I was hoping for the cloud cover to move and reveal the show. While waiting we had a bonfire and drank some hot chocolate. And took photos, of course.
After 90 minutes I decided it was time to relocate. We saw the stars clearly above us and I realized something. Maybe it’s not a regular cloud cover that had drawn a thin curtain over the aurora. Maybe it’s just fog rising from the sea which was 3 kilometers away (2 miles). In that case moving further away from the coastline would instantly solve the problem.
We started making our way back to the car, following our tracks in the snow. After a few minutes I looked up and saw beams of green light between the tree tops. The aurora had risen above the foggy part of the sky and was now dancing wildly with increasing strength.
The northern lights were crashing down into the atmosphere right above us. It got strong very quickly and we cheered loudly where we stood.
After moving to a more open space in the forest we had a better view over the action going on in the sky.
When it peaked it was jawdropping to watch.
I hurried to mount my camera on the tripod and started shooting. After a few minutes we moved to some rocks where there were fewer trees and thus better visibility. The show went on and the northern lights did not seem to lose any strength, as they sometimes do quite quickly. We decided to move on to the car despite the ongoing show.
I left my son at home and continued the aurora watch on my own. I now parked the car by some fields where nothing blocked the view. The aurora show went on for one more hour.
But another cloud situation appeared. Now the clouds came in from the other side so it was not fog from the sea but a regular cloud cover. However the northern lights were strong enough to be seen through those clouds, at least partly.
The show went on but more clouds came in.
I sat down on the road for a selfie.
Of course, the best part of the aurora was the one that was seen outside the edge of those clouds. I could have moved in another direction to escape the cloud cover, at least for a while until it would catch up. But I had seen the best part of the activity and I began to think about going home.
When I got home—it was now 2:15 AM—the aurora had lost most of its power and very little green was still left on the sky. It was the end of the show.
THINGS TO LEARN:
1. Clouds might be very local. Especially if they hover over the sea surface.
2. Relocating can be your smartest move.
3. A thin cloud or fog cover might let some of the action through, but it will most likely take away the ‘wow effect’.
To prevent clouds from ruining your aurora experience and increase your chances, please download the free checklist. It will give you the skills you need to deal with the situation.