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Northern Lights in December or January

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Northern Lights in December or January

Hi, can anyone provide any advice on how we should get to see the Northern Lights in Dec/ Jan. we are travelling from Australia and spending about 8 weeks in Northern America in total.

Is it best to fly to Fairbanks from Vancouver?

How long should we spend in Fairbanks?

Is there much else to do there in winter? We are travelling with our 2 daughters.

From what I understand, we need a clear night to see the Northern Lights. How often does this occur at this time of year. If it is not often, perhaps we will re-consider.

Any advice would be appreciated.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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1. Re: Northern Lights in December or January

Most here, myself included, would not plan a trip to Alaska (or Fairbanks in particular) specifically to see the northern lights. If you happen to have the opportunity during your travels, consider yourself fortunate . . . even blessed.

There are several things that need to happen for the aurora to be seen; first and foremost solar activity conducive to create the aurora. Then yes, clear skies are necessary. I've been to Fairbanks in the winter (over 15 total nights) and have had some great viewing, but have also have clear skies with no solar activity.

As for other things to do in Fairbanks, assuming it is not too cold (which it could be) . . . you can go sled dog mushing, skiing, ice skating, snow shoeing, snow machining . . . typical winter type outdoor activities. You could also take a tour north on the Dalton Hwy to the Arctic Circle, which provides a look at the tundra which is pretty spectacular in spite of the remoteness.

Where else in "North America" will your travels take you? There may be decent northern light opportunities, especially if you're planning time in Canada.

New York
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2. Re: Northern Lights in December or January

I have done two winter trips to Alaska, in the far milder month of March- which also has better daylight.

Both trips were 2 weeks. One trip had about 10 nights of aurora, the following year, I had one. Not sure if the Ice Alaska is still going to go on, but that is in March and certainly was a reason for my timing of my trips.

I spent my time dog sledding, and snow machining.

Boise, Idaho, U.S.A.
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3. Re: Northern Lights in December or January

I tend to have poor luck with either weather or activity. I think the chances of getting clear weather tend to be lower in December, improving in January and February.

Getting up on the Steese Highway can help you escape Fairbanks light pollution. Near Fox are turnouts that are okay. Continuing past Fox on the Steese, the Felix Pedro Monument parking lot is pretty good. A compact car with front wheel drive may be adequate, but an SUV can be safer. I like to rent from Payless because they offer mid-size SUV's. Some of the others only offer full size SUV's. Even with an SUV, the agreement usually stipulates that you must drive on paved roads only. AT&T has GSM connectivity (and roaming) up to Fox. I think there is CDMA roaming on Verizon to Cleary Summit.

This shot was taken from the Felix Pedro parking lot under beautifully clear, dark, moonless sky in February 2010, but, alas, auroral activity was very low.

martingrumet.com/alaska02feb10-14steese1800.…

This was taken December 2011 from a little bit south of Fox. There was nice activity, but there were clouds and a full moon, and it was the only break in the clouds I got all week.

martingrumet.com/alaska11dec11-01steese-hwy2…

4. Re: Northern Lights in December or January

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