Forecasting the Aurora Borealis

Forecasting Mother Nature is never easy, especially when she puts on some of her more amazing shows such as earthquakes, rainbows and tidal waves.

One of Mother Nature’s most remarkable efforts, the aurora borealis (Northern Lights) also remains elusively unpredictable. Sure, scientists can pinpoint the months when this phenomenon will likely occur, but until recently, they couldn’t tell us when, exactly, to plan our Alaska vacation to actually witness the fabled lights.

Researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute claim they can now do so. Their rather cool “Aurora Forecast” site tracks solar wind and provides a 28 day forecast of when to expect the aurora borealis. Tonight, for example, the site calls for “Quiet” levels of activity. On November 16, 17 and 18th, however, the forecast calls for “Active” Northern Lights. If you are planning on visiting Alaska anytime soon, this would be the time to do it.

The only problem with such accurate predictions, however, is that weather forecasting remains far more flawed. The Northern Lights might be shooting off like fireworks but if there is a heavy cloud layer over Alaska, you may as well be in Cleveland.