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When and where do I have the highest chance of seeing auroras?

What is the best place to see northern lights in Europe in late December? By best I mean (a) have the highest probability (b) the actual spectacle is the most spectacular.

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marked as duplicate by HaLaBi, mindcorrosive, Gilles, Mark Mayo Sep 13 '12 at 5:24

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The likelihood of an aurora occuring at all, as well as its intensity, corresponds pretty directly to latitude, so the further north, the better. On top of that, the further north you are, the longer the nights are in winter (up to 24 hours beyond the arctic circle), which improves your chances - and offsets the fact that auroras are more common around the equinoctes.

The second factor is cloud cover - the aurora happens far above the troposphere and will thus be completely obscured by clouds. I found a meteorological paper that shows statistics for mean cloud cover, and if I read it correctly the likelihood of cloud cover in northern Europe during winter is the lower the further east you go, but always above 50% unless you approach the Ural Mountains. The data is from the 1970s though.

Altogether, it sounds like places in northern Scandinavia and somewhat inland, like Kiruna, might be your best bet.

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Good points (+1). However, I doubt Kiruna is a much better bet than e.g. Kittilä (well connected in winter because of the Levi ski resort) or Enontekiö in Finland. Rovaniemi could be mentioned too, though it's not quite as far north. –  Jonik Sep 12 '12 at 12:24

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