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When will you next get to see the Northern Lights in Sweden?

Have you ever seen the Northern Lights? Here's how to increase your chances of spotting them.

When will you next get to see the Northern Lights in Sweden?
The Northern Lights in Stockholm on January 14th. Photo: Lisa Abrahamsson/TT

A peak in solar winds clashing with the Earth’s atmosphere meant that a dazzling Aurora Borealis was visible in pretty much all of Sweden in mid-January – from northern Norrland to the far south of Skåne, where catching a glimpse of the spectacular show is rare.

Even in Stockholm, the capital’s light pollution did little to dim their display, or the excitement of Stockholmers.

But if you were one of the unlucky ones who slept through it all, only to wake up to your friends’ pictures on social media the following morning, when will you get another chance to see the Northern Lights in Sweden?

It depends on where you live. If you’re based in northern Sweden, you probably only have to be patient and you’ll get there eventually. The further north you get, the better your chances, as the Northern Lights only appear around the Earth’s magnetic poles.

But that doesn’t mean the Northern Lights are a safe bet on any given day in northern Sweden; it all depends on solar activity and cloud cover. If the sky is overcast, you’re likely to be disappointed.

In Stockholm and further south, the Northern Lights are relatively rare, but not unheard of.

There are a few ways you can stay up to date with potential sightings, although the Northern Lights are complex, so they are hard to predict.

Keep an eye on websites such as the University of Alaska’s Aurora Forecast, which for obvious reasons doesn’t focus on Sweden but can still give you a good idea. The Space Weather Prediction Center and SpaceWeather Live are another two reliable websites.

To interpret these, you need to learn a little bit about the Northern Lights. That doesn’t mean you have to become an expert (and our article is aimed at beginners), but it’s useful to know that the key metric to keep an eye out for is something called the “KP Index”, a scale from 0-9.

The KP Index measures geomagnetic activity in the atmosphere; the higher the number, the stronger the geomagnetic activity. You can based on this divide the northern parts of the Earth into zones, where Kiruna in the far north is in KP3 and Stockholm is in KP6. So if, say, a KP3 number is predicted, only northern Sweden is likely to see the Northern Lights.

If you’d rather not have to think too much about when and where to see the Northern Lights – “I just want someone to tell me when they’re on!” – we recommend the Facebook group Norrsken Sverige, which regularly posts daily forecasts during peak season, which tell you exactly when and where the Northern Lights are expected. Followers also post their reports and pictures of the lights as they happen.

You can also download an app. My Aurora Forecast is popular and there are free versions for both iPhone and Android. You can either choose what location you want to track, or tell it to automatically change its settings based on where you are. The app will send you notifications when there’s a high chance of seeing the Northern Lights, but it also gives you a long-term forecast of the KP index. It also gives you percentages for how likely you are to see the Northern Lights in your area, now and in the next 30 minutes.

To make sure the sky is clear, check the weather report on Swedish meteorological institute SMHI’s website.

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Fucke no more – Swedish settlement applies for name change

The residents of the pretty little Swedish village of Fucke are in agreement: they want a new name.

Fucke no more – Swedish settlement applies for name change
File photo of the High Coast, the picturesque area where Fucke is situated. Photo: Friluftsbyn Höga Kusten/

On the High Coast, one of the most picturesque areas of Sweden, lies Fucke, a settlement made up of just 11 properties.

Fucke sits on the banks of Fuckesjön (“Fucke Lake”), just down the road from the small settlement of Hump, situated on the banks of Humpsjön (“Hump Lake”).

The earliest records of the town Fucke come from 1547, according to the Institute for Language and Folklore, where it is described as “by a lake, situated very high up on a hillside with very steep fields”.

The meaning of the name Fucke is “not entirely clear” Josefin Devine, a researcher at the Institute for Language and Folklore, told The Local.

“There is a suggestion for interpretation that it could mean ‘wedge shaped piece of earth’, from the Old West Norse word fokka, but that interpretation doesn’t explain the sound change [The change in vowel from ‘o’ to ‘u’]. So it’s unclear!”

Homeowners in the area are tired of their posts being censored when they try to sell things online, or write about the village on Facebook, so they have united and sent in a joint application to The National Land Survey of Sweden to change its name to Dalsro (“quiet valley”) instead, SVT reports.

Unfortunately for residents, this could take some time. A name change must be considered by the Swedish National Heritage Board and the Institute for Language and Folklore before it can be approved, so it is unlikely that the people of Fucke will have an answer before the summer.

“The National Land Survey makes decisions about place names in Sweden,” said Devine, who explained what authorities consider when deciding whether to approve or deny a request to change a place name.

“They can choose to consult the Institute for Language and Folklore, which happens quite regularly. When that happens, we look at the material we have in our archives to see what evidence we have for spelling and pronunciation. We can also recommend that the National Land Survey make a particular decision, based on our knowledge of names and what the Historic Environment Act says, but they make the decision, she continued.

“It’s often about weighing different aspects against each other, like, for example, modern, practical issues with the name on the one hand, with protecting our cultural heritage on the other.”

The Historic Environment Act (Kulturmiljölagen) is a law which regulates Swedish place names, taking place name customs into account.

“Place name customs according to this law mean that, among other things, place names must be written according to accepted norms for written Swedish, as well as the fact that place names currently in use cannot be changed unless there are exceptional reasons. If new names are created, the effect on previously existing names must be considered. Therefore, if a place already has an established name, there need to be strong reasons for changing it,” explained the National Land Survey in an email to SVT.

Residents of the Swedish village of Fjuckby tried and failed to change their town’s name to Fjukeby back in 2007, with the National Land Survey choosing to follow the advice of the Institute for Language and Folklore and keep the name as-is.

Fjuckby inhabitant Katriina Flensburg told The Local at the time that she was surprised by the folklore institute’s resistance to a name change since the alternative, Fjukeby, was “pretty and nice”.