Climate in Anchorage Alaska

“Is it true that you Alaskan’s have advanced technology for surviving in the winter that you refuse to share with anyone else?”

I swear, that was a genuine question that a guard at Universal Studios in California asked me when he found out I was from Alaska. It is amusing to hear the wide range of questions that are gotten by those from outside Alaska, and I often hear surprise from my friends when I talk about the weather up here. People seem to have a set idea on what Alaska’s climate is like, sometimes a vastly mistaken idea.

In truth, Alaska has a lot of different climates, so we will focus on the climate in the Anchorage area for the purpose of this article and leave the rest of Alaska for another article (or 20).

In the summer months, Anchorage’s climate is a lot like that of San Francisco. High tempatures ranging from 60 to 70 degrees F. In the winter, it better resembles the Swiss Alps with tempatures that drop to 15 to 20 degrees F. Taking the average highs and lows for the year from the same location, Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, and elevation (132′ above sea level) between 1971 and the year 2000 you can get a fairly accurate idea of what the climate in Anchorage is like:

Month – Temperature High/Low – Precipitation

Jan – 10/22 – 8
Feb – 12/27 – 8.5
March – 19/33 – 8
April – 29/44 – 5
May – 39/55 – 8
June – 48/62 – 10.5
July – 52/65 – 18
Aug – 50/63 – 29
Sept – 41/55 – 28.5
Oct – 28/40 – 21
Nov – 16/28 – 11
Dec – 12/24 – 10.5

As with the temperatures, there is a wide variance from summer to winter in the daylight hours in Anchorage. During the Summer Solstice (June 21/22) the sun can be in the sky for nearly 20 hours out of the day. Setting at around 10:42, the sun rises again at around 03:20 giving Alaskans only a bit over four and a half hours of night (including the after sundown twilight and the glow of pre-dawn).

In the winter time this cycle reverses itself, so that on the winter solstice (December 21/22) Anchorage residents have only a bit over 17 and a half hours of night. The sun rising at 10:15 and setting once again at 15:42.

Something that I have taken as a clear sign that the climate is changing in Alaska is lightning. I am terrified of thunderstorms, and when I was younger there were no storms in Alaska, some lifelong Alaskan’s my sister knows had never even seen a lightning storm until the mid to late 80’s – when the weather began to change. Lightning storms are starting to be a part of the springs up here now, with storms to rival those I had seen in northern Washington back in the ealy 80’s.

Climate change in Alaska is a serious issue that is resulting in increased storm effects, the retreat of sea ice, coastal errosion and the melting of permafrost. All very serious issues that can affect everything from fishing to the lives of villagers to the Alaskan oil pipeline.

Suggestions for further research on Anchorage and Alaska climate:

The Alaska Climate Research Center – http://climate.gi.alaska.edu/
Temp Changes – http://climate.gi.alaska.edu/ClimTrends/Change/TempChange.html
Alaska Government pages on Alaska Climate Change – http://www.climatechange.alaska.gov/
Alaska lightning strike tracker – http://aawu.arh.noaa.gov/ltng/lightning.htm