What Kind of Climate Does Alaska Have?

AlaskaThree-fourths of Alaska is in the North Temperate Zone and only one-fourth is north of the Arctic Circle. This northern area, which few settlers penetrate, is the only one with Arctic conditions of climate.

Within certain limits, you can take your choice of climate in Alaska. Most residents of the States think of Alaska as a land of show and ice. Yet the temperature of the Matanuska Valley has, averaged 13° above zero in January and 58° in July for the last 19 years. Over the last 40 years the average temperature in Ketchikan and Sitka, two towns in southeastern Alaska. has stayed above freezing in January. 32.5 above zero! Residents of Fairbanks in interior Alaska, have had to be treated for sunstroke. The temperature has frequently risen to 90° in the summer, and on one occasion hit 99°. July temperatures in Fairbanks averaged 60° over the last 34 years.

Rain and snowfall also vary considerably over Alaska. In rainy southeastern Alaska there is a saying that it rains less in February because the month has only 28 days. Average precipitation (which includes, of course, snow and rain) varies from 151 inches a year in Ketchikan in southeastern Alaska; to 4 1/2 inches in Barrow in the Arctic. The length of the growing season varies as widely—from 172 days in Juneau in southeastern Alaska, to 17 days in Arctic Barrow.

Although the midnight sun can be seen only within the Arctic Circle, all parts of Alaska are far enough north to make the days long in summer and short in winter. Birds sing all night long during the Alaskan summer, even in the southeast. In Fairbanks the sun scarcely seems to set during the summer months and a midnight Fourth of July baseball game is an annual event. In winter at Fairbanks the sun makes a low arc in the sky during a brief day. Brilliant moonlit nights often make up, however, for the absence of direct sunlight.

In reality, there are some six fairly well-defined regions in Alaska, each with its own climate, geography, people, and way of living—southeastern, south central, and interior Alaska, southwestern Alaska, the Bering Sea coast, and the Arctic. You will probably want to consider only the first three of these six regions as places in which to live and work. Later, business or pleasure may take you to the remoter three, each of which has a fascination all its own.