10 reasons why autumn is a great time to search for the Northern Lights!
There are many great places to go hunting for the Northern Lights but some Aurora enthusiasts don’t realise that it is not just something to be enjoyed in the winter months in arctic Europe. In fact, here at The Aurora Zone, we think that most Aurora hunters are missing a trick because we believe that one of the best times to search for the Northern Lights is actually during the autumn season!
‘Autumn in arctic Europe is very often overlooked in favour of the winter months but, in my experience, it is one of the very best times to go Aurora hunting. The most spectacular Auroral display I have ever seen occurred in Finnish Lapland during September. I knew full well that those lights were at least 50 miles overhead but, I will never, ever forget involuntarily jumping out the way to dodge volley after volley of multi-coloured spears of light as they plummeted earthwards.’ – Founder and Managing Director of The Aurora Zone, Ali Mclean
Read below for our 10 reasons why you need to experience the Northern Lights in autumn!
About 10 reasons why autumn is a great time to search for the Northern Lights!
1) The power of the autumn equinox!
Geomagnetic activity causes the Northern Lights to appear in our night sky and the equation is simple, more geomagnetic activity means more Northern Lights displays!
Dr David Hathaway from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center found that the months around equinoxes are almost twice as likely as solstices to have geomagnetic disturbances. His findings were based on 75 years of historical records, so who can argue with that!
To find out more about the science behind the Northern Lights, click here.
2) Russell-McPherron Effect: Equinox 'Cracks'
Research by C. T. Russell and R. L. McPherron from UCLA’s Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics concluded that there are ‘twice as many storms (geomagnetic) occur on average during the equinoctial months as during the solstitial.’ (Russell, C. and McPherron, R. (1973), ‘Semiannual variation of geomagnetic activity’, Journal of Geophysical Research, 78(1), pp.92-108).
One of the causes of increased geomagnetic activity in autumn is the opening up of “Equinox Cracks”. These are caused by the interaction of interplanetary magnetic forces and Earth’s magnetic field. Due to the tilt of the Earth and its alignment with the Sun around the equinoxes, these forces direct solar wind towards Earth creating weaknesses or “cracks” in the atmosphere. This then creates an increased number of collisions between solar winds and the gases in our atmosphere causing more Northern Lights displays around the equinox than at other times of the year.
3) Bright landscapes to contrast the sky!
It is joked by our friends in Finland that “Ruska”, the Finnish Fall, starts promptly every year at 9 am on the 9th September and lasts exactly two weeks. We think it’s a tad longer than that, but for a few weeks the landscapes in Northern Scandinavia enjoy all those lovely burnished colours of autumn with beautiful reds, oranges and yellows covering the countryside. It’s a fabulous time to explore with vibrant vistas by day and, very possibly, ethereal Northern Lights illuminating the skies at night.
4) Reflecting the beauty from above
In autumn, the rivers and lakes of Finnish Lapland remain unfrozen which often means that you can see the Aurora Borealis reflected in the still, inky waters of the lakes and waterways. It’s an unforgettable experience seeing what is essentially two Auroral displays for the price of one!
5) Hate the cold? Try autumn!
One of the almost inevitable things about searching for the Northern Lights is that you will need to be outside at night. Now, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the Arctic Circle can be extremely cold during the winter months with temperatures regularly going down to -10°C during December to February. However, during September and October this is not the case with average temperatures being much milder and between 0.8°C to 10°C. This is by no means warm, but is a more comfortable temperature to be going out hunting for the Northern Lights so, if you are cold-averse, autumn is a far better time to search for the Northern Lights!
6) Clearer skies!
There is one thing that distorts the view of the Northern Lights like no other; deep cloud cover. Autumnal weather in Finnish Lapland is generally far more temperate than in mid-winter. With that in mind, the likelihood is that there will be less cloud cover obscuring the Arctic skies, meaning more chance to witness those fantastic dancing lights!
7) See a different side to Lapland
Now don’t get us wrong, we love Lapland during the winter months, however, there are simply some things that can only be enjoyed in autumn. From the wonderful colours of autumn to hiking through the wilderness whilst it's full of life before the winter months of snow and ice arrive. From enjoying a boat trip out on the lake to panning for gold, autumn is a truly unique time of year in Finland.
8) Seeking peace and quiet?
While the destinations we feature on The Aurora Zone are far from crowded, Finnish Lapland is attracting more visitors each and every year, all eager to tick the Aurora Borealis off their bucket list. Autumn, however, still remains under the radar for most which means you might be able to enjoy the season in a more peaceful environment! There is something special about autumn, and you can enjoy the fact that you are one of the lucky few to have witnessed the many wonders of a Finnish autumn!
9) Living off the land in autumn!
As well as bringing some wonderful colours to the trees, autumn also allows you to really enjoy the wonderful wilderness of the Arctic Circle. With snow yet to fall on the ground, there are great opportunities to hike through the forests and fells along routes not as easily accessible in the winter months. Hike with huskies, forage for berries, explore the beautiful lakes; all is possible!
10) A photographer’s paradise!
Although we love a winter wonderland picture as much as the next person, there is definitely something special about capturing the Northern Lights during an autumn Aurora hunting holiday. Not only can you often get two Auroras for the price of one, with the Auroras dancing lights reflecting off the black waters of the lakes, but the contrast of lights and the autumn colours are also something truly special. Our photography workshops at Menesjärvi and Saariselkä will help you learn how to make the most of this beautiful time of year and enjoy some spectacular scenes that just cannot be replicated in the winter months.
Inspired by our 10 reasons? Join The Aurora Zone this autumn in Finnish Lapland!
Alternatively, head to Menesjärvi, a wild and remote place at the very heart of the Aurora Zone for an authentic Lappish experience of ‘Ruska’. Discover how to capture the scene with an Aurora photography workshop, visit a reindeer and husky farm, experience the culture and enjoy dedicated Northern Lights hunts.
If you’re keen to experience a stay in an Aurora igloo, head to Saariselkä, located 250km above the Arctic Circle and spend the entirety of your stay in innovative, glass-roofed Aurora Cabins. Tailor your time in this autumnal paradise as you wish; hunt the Northern Lights by Lake Rahajärvi, experience gold panning at Tankavaara, hike Urho Kekkonen National Park, and so much more.
Inspired by autumn? Click to find our other autumn Northern Lights itineraries.
Image Credits: Antti Pietikainen, Markku Inkila