The low, middle and high latitude

When you read forecasts about possible auroral chances, we speak often about the high, middle and low latitudes. But what does that mean? There is no exact definition where that boundary lies but the high latitude is situated around the 60° magnetic latitude and higher; the middle latitudes between the 50° and 60° magnetic latitude and everything below the 50° magnetic latitude is considered to be in the category of low latitude.

But wait? Magnetic latitudes? What is that? Well, when we are talking about aurora and the different latitudes, we always talk about magnetic latitudes and not geographic latitudes. You would say that when you are at a high geographic latitude (close to the north or south pole) you are more likely to see aurora. That is largely true but there is a catch: the earth’s magnetic poles are not exactly in line with the geographic poles, that is why your magnetic latitude is important and not your geographic latitude. The magnetic north pole actually favours sky watchers in North America, that is why aurora there can be seen on lower geographic latitudes than in Europe. Note that the aurora is also shaped like an oval around the magnetic poles so it is even possible to be on a latitude that is too high to see aurora! It is rare for aurora to show up at the geographic north and south poles for example. Another thing to note is that the aurora is visible on the horizon even when its boundary is 4 or 5 degrees poleward of your location.

When geomagnetic activity is low, the aurora typically is located, in the hours around midnight, at about 67 degrees magnetic latitude. As activity increases, the region of aurora expands toward the equator. When geomagnetic activity is very high, the aurora may be seen at middle and low latitude locations that would otherwise rarely experience the polar lights. The map below shows if you are located on the high, the middle, or the low latitudes.

Low, Middle and High Latitude

We can conclude that the middle latitudes need a Kp-index from about 4 to 7 depending on where you are. Belgium for example which is on the middle latitudes but close the lower latitudes would need a Kp-index of 7 for aurora on the horizon. The capital of France, Paris which is located on the lower latitudes would need a Kp-index of 8. Locations on even lower latitudes need a Kp-index of 9.

LatitudeRequired Kp
Alert, NUHigh latitudeKp9+
Calgary, ABMiddle latitudeKp4o
Edmonton, ABHigh latitudeKp3o
Gillam, MBHigh latitudeKp1-
Halifax, NSMiddle latitudeKp6o
Iqaluit, NUHigh latitudeKp3+
Montreal, QCMiddle latitudeKp5+
Ottawa, ONMiddle latitudeKp5+
Quebec City, QCMiddle latitudeKp5-
Resolute, NVHigh latitudeKp8-
Saskatoon, SKHigh latitudeKp3o
St. John's, NLMiddle latitudeKp5-
Thunder Bay, ONMiddle latitudeKp4+
Toronto, ONMiddle latitudeKp6+
Vancouver, BCMiddle latitudeKp6-
Whitehorse, YTHigh latitudeKp1o
Winnipeg, MBMiddle latitudeKp4-
Yellowknife, NTHigh latitudeKp1o
LatitudeRequired Kp
HavanaLow latitudeKp9+
LatitudeRequired Kp
NuukHigh latitudeKp3o
LatitudeRequired Kp
Mexico CityLow latitudeKp9+
MonterreyLow latitudeKp9+
United States
LatitudeRequired Kp
Albuquerque, NMLow latitudeKp9+
Anchorage, AKHigh latitudeKp2o
Atlanta, GALow latitudeKp9+
Augusta, MEMiddle latitudeKp6o
Billings, MTMiddle latitudeKp6+
Boise, IDMiddle latitudeKp8-
Bismarck, NDMiddle latitudeKp5+
Boston, MAMiddle latitudeKp7o
Casper, WYMiddle latitudeKp8-
Chicago, ILMiddle latitudeKp7+
Columbus, OHLow latitudeKp8+
Dallas, TXLow latitudeKp9+
Denver, COLow latitudeKp9o
Detroit, MIMiddle latitudeKp7o
Fairbanks, AKHigh latitudeKp0+
Great Falls, MTMiddle latitudeKp6-
Indianapolis, INLow latitudeKp8+
Jackson, MSLow latitudeKp9+
Juneau, AKHigh latitudeKp2+
Las Vegas, NVLow latitudeKp9+
Lincoln, NELow latitudeKp8+
Little Rock, ARLow latitudeKp9+
Los Angeles, CALow latitudeKp9+
Miami, FLLow latitudeKp9+
Minneapolis, MNMiddle latitudeKp6o
Montpelier, VTMiddle latitudeKp6o
Nashville, TNLow latitudeKp9+
New York City, NYMiddle latitudeKp8-
Portland, ORMiddle latitudeKp7+
Richmond, VALow latitudeKp9+
Salt Lake City, UTLow latitudeKp9o
San Francisco, CALow latitudeKp9+
Seattle, WAMiddle latitudeKp6+
St. Louis, MOLow latitudeKp9o
Utqiagvik, AKHigh latitudeKp2-
Washington, D.C.Low latitudeKp9-
LatitudeRequired Kp
ViennaLow latitudeKp9o
LatitudeRequired Kp
MinskMiddle latitudeKp7+
LatitudeRequired Kp
BrusselsMiddle latitudeKp7o
LatitudeRequired Kp
BeijingLow latitudeKp9+
Czech Republic
LatitudeRequired Kp
BrnoLow latitudeKp9-
PragueMiddle latitudeKp8o
LatitudeRequired Kp
AalborgMiddle latitudeKp4+
AarhusMiddle latitudeKp5o
CopenhagenMiddle latitudeKp5+
LatitudeRequired Kp
TallinnMiddle latitudeKp5-
Faroe Islands
LatitudeRequired Kp
TórshavnHigh latitudeKp1-
LatitudeRequired Kp
HelsinkiMiddle latitudeKp4+
OuluHigh latitudeKp2o
RovaniemiHigh latitudeKp1+
TampereMiddle latitudeKp3+
TurkuMiddle latitudeKp4o
KuopioHigh latitudeKp3o
SodankyläHigh latitudeKp1o
UtsjokiHigh latitudeKp0o
LatitudeRequired Kp
LyonLow latitudeKp9+
MarseilleLow latitudeKp9+
NantesLow latitudeKp8o
NiceLow latitudeKp9+
ParisMiddle latitudeKp8-
ToulouseLow latitudeKp9+
LatitudeRequired Kp
BerlinMiddle latitudeKp7o
CologneMiddle latitudeKp7o
FrankfurtMiddle latitudeKp8-
HamburgMiddle latitudeKp6o
MunichLow latitudeKp9-
LatitudeRequired Kp
AthensLow latitudeKp9+
LatitudeRequired Kp
BudapestLow latitudeKp9+
LatitudeRequired Kp
ReykjavikHigh latitudeKp1o
LatitudeRequired Kp
DublinMiddle latitudeKp5o
LatitudeRequired Kp
MilanLow latitudeKp9+
NaplesLow latitudeKp9+
RomeLow latitudeKp9+
TurinLow latitudeKp9+
LatitudeRequired Kp
TokyoLow latitudeKp9+
LatitudeRequired Kp
AstanaLow latitudeKp9+
LatitudeRequired Kp
RigaMiddle latitudeKp6-
LatitudeRequired Kp
VilniusMiddle latitudeKp7-
LatitudeRequired Kp
Ulan BatorLow latitudeKp9+
LatitudeRequired Kp
AmsterdamMiddle latitudeKp6+
LatitudeRequired Kp
BergenHigh latitudeKp3-
KirkenesHigh latitudeKp0+
OsloHigh latitudeKp3+
TromsøHigh latitudeKp0+
TrondheimHigh latitudeKp2-
LatitudeRequired Kp
GdańskMiddle latitudeKp6+
KrakowLow latitudeKp9-
WarsawMiddle latitudeKp8-
LatitudeRequired Kp
LisbonLow latitudeKp9+
PortoLow latitudeKp9+
LatitudeRequired Kp
BucharestLow latitudeKp9+
LatitudeRequired Kp
ArkhangelskHigh latitudeKp3+
IrkutskLow latitudeKp9+
KazanMiddle latitudeKp8o
KrasnoyarskLow latitudeKp9+
MoscowMiddle latitudeKp7+
MurmanskHigh latitudeKp1-
NorilskHigh latitudeKp3o
NovosibirskLow latitudeKp9+
PermMiddle latitudeKp7+
PetrozavodskMiddle latitudeKp4o
Saint PetersburgMiddle latitudeKp5-
SurgutMiddle latitudeKp6+
SyktyvkarMiddle latitudeKp5+
VladivostokLow latitudeKp9+
VorkutaHigh latitudeKp3o
YakutskMiddle latitudeKp6+
YaroslavlMiddle latitudeKp6+
YekaterinburgMiddle latitudeKp8o
LatitudeRequired Kp
LjubljanaLow latitudeKp9+
LatitudeRequired Kp
BratislavaLow latitudeKp9+
South Korea
LatitudeRequired Kp
SeoulLow latitudeKp9+
LatitudeRequired Kp
BarcelonaLow latitudeKp9+
MadridLow latitudeKp9+
LatitudeRequired Kp
GothenburgMiddle latitudeKp4+
KirunaHigh latitudeKp0+
LuleåHigh latitudeKp1+
MalmöMiddle latitudeKp5+
StockholmMiddle latitudeKp4o
SundsvallHigh latitudeKp3-
UmeåHigh latitudeKp2o
LatitudeRequired Kp
BernLow latitudeKp9o
United Kingdom
LatitudeRequired Kp
BelfastMiddle latitudeKp4+
BirminghamMiddle latitudeKp6-
EdinburghMiddle latitudeKp4o
LondonMiddle latitudeKp6+
ManchesterMiddle latitudeKp5o
LatitudeRequired Kp
DniproLow latitudeKp9+
DonetskLow latitudeKp9+
KharkivLow latitudeKp9+
KyivLow latitudeKp9+
LatitudeRequired Kp
Buenos AiresLow latitudeKp9+
Comodoro RivadaviaLow latitudeKp9+
UshuaiaLow latitudeKp9+
LatitudeRequired Kp
AdelaideLow latitudeKp9+
Alice SpringsLow latitudeKp9+
BrisbaneLow latitudeKp9+
DevonportLow latitudeKp9-
HobartMiddle latitudeKp8o
MelbourneLow latitudeKp9+
PerthLow latitudeKp9+
SydneyLow latitudeKp9+
LatitudeRequired Kp
ConcepcionLow latitudeKp9+
Punta ArenasLow latitudeKp9+
New Zealand
LatitudeRequired Kp
AucklandLow latitudeKp9+
ChristchurchLow latitudeKp9+
DunedinLow latitudeKp8o
InvercargillMiddle latitudeKp8-
WellingtonLow latitudeKp9+
South Africa
LatitudeRequired Kp
CapetownLow latitudeKp9+
DurbanLow latitudeKp9+
LatitudeRequired Kp
MontevideoLow latitudeKp9+

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