As we have mentioned in many a previous blog, March is a brilliant time to go in search of the Northern Lights. This is not just our personal opinion either! Studies by NASA solar physicist David Hathaway show that March is one of the most geomagnetically active months of the year (see graph below), and the reason for this is springtime. Or to be more accurate the spring equinox.
Many people associate the Northern Lights with the cold depths of winter, and though we have seen some excellent displays come out of our Aurora Zone destinations this season, we’re also extremely excited to see what March will bring.
A question we are asked almost every day here at The Aurora Zone is “when is the best time to see the Northern Lights?”. Now, when dealing with a natural phenomenon such as the Aurora Borealis, it is pretty hard to answer this question with any degree of certainty as its appearance can rarely be predicted accurately much more than a few hours in advance.
Here at The Aurora Zone we’ve seen something of a change in recent weeks. Naturally, as holiday providers and Northern Lights enthusiasts, we spend a lot of time travelling to the likes of Finland, Sweden and Norway in search of dark skies illuminated by dancing celestial light.
(Taken 1st March 2017 in the Lyngen Alps by Francisco Damm)
If I had a pound for every time I have been asked this question I would be rich beyond the dreams of avarice. If I had an exact answer, I would be rich beyond the dreams of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffet combined.
The problem with the Aurora is that it is a natural phenomenon and regardless of whether it is September, December or March, its appearance can rarely be predicted much more than a few hours in advance.
Warning! Contains scenes of nudity
Temperatures in March tend to be milder than in the very heart of winter. Okay, it’s still not exactly tropical and only the hardiest of souls would brave the elements like our hero below. However, Aurora hunting requires patience and the chances are that you will be warmer waiting in March than in say December or January.
I love my job because it takes me to my favourite part of the world, Northern Scandinavia on a regular basis.
I’ve been to Norway, Finland, Sweden and Iceland on numerous occasions and at many different times of year.
I love the autumn colours and the mind-fuddling 24 hour daylight midnight sun of the summer months. I love the heart of winter when the days are short and the grey/blue light of the Polar nights predominates. I love early January when the sun reappears above the horizon and bathes the snowy white landscapes in a pink glow.
Most of all however, I love early spring and whilst I travel to Scandinavia on business at any time of year, I always holiday there in middle to late March.
We’re often asked “when is the best time to travel to Northern Scandinavia?” and it is very difficult to provide a concise response. A quick straw poll amongst my colleagues revealed a diversity of responses to what is evidently a highly subjective topic.
Some are fascinated by the midnight sun and savour the warmer temperatures of summer whilst others prefer the stunning autumnal colours of September, known locally as “Ruska”. Unsurprisingly, there was a big call from the parents in the office voting for either the December magic of mid-winter, February half term and Easter.
Personally, I always head to Finnish Lapland somewhere between mid-March and early April and, in many a conversation with the locals, it seems that they too favour this time of year.
Late March to early April is a time of change and renewal in Lapland. You get the best snow of the winter because by now, it has been falling for anything up to six months. The perfect snow provides the perfect canvas for warmer temperatures and stunning ice-blue skies that stretch endlessly away over the forests and still frozen lakes to a far and distant horizon. The air is as pure as anything you could ever hope to breath and the days become almost visibly longer. Yeah!
Forget that myth about it being permanently dark above the Arctic Circle; by mid-March it is light until around 9pm and Aurora hunters have to go out increasingly late for their Northern Lights fix.
Nevertheless, my experience is that is worth waiting for darkness to fall because the great thing about March and early April is that the improving weather very often means less cloud cover and it is cloud cover, not a full moon, that every Aurora hunter hates. Add in a theory that the sun is more active around the spring equinox and you have a pretty good time to head north.
If you do, you may very well see me there too. Give me a wave as you pass me driving a team of dogs through the snowy forests or ice fishing on a frozen lake surrounded by pristine and perfectly silent nature.
Most importantly, once darkness has fallen, try not to bump into me or anybody else for that matter because it is all too easy to do when your gaze is fixed skywards.
You could say that the Northern Lights have become Lapland’s equivalent to mobile phones; nobody these days seems to be able to take their eyes off them regardless of where they are walking or heading. So, no matter when you travel, make sure you watch where you’re stepping as you marvel at those overhead lights.