The Climate of Alaska

By | August 27, 2022

The state of Alaska (AK) is located in northwestern North America and is separated from the mainland of the United States of America by Canada. Its geographic location (about a third of Alaska is above the Arctic Circle) makes Alaska the coolest state in the US. Thanks to the Alaska Current, you will find relatively warm seawater along the coasts in the southern half of Alaska. Thanks to this fairly warm sea water, the temperature in winter drops less far than you would expect based on the location, in the north this effect does not apply, so that within Alaska a fairly large contrast in temperature can arise. What you especially notice is that in places like Anchorage, Juneau and Dutch Harbor the winter is not only less severe, but also shorter. Dutch Harbor, on the Aleutian Islands archipelago, has an average daily temperature in the coldest month (January) that is just below freezing. This area, which is very popular among fishermen, is on average only a few degrees cooler than the Netherlands in winter. In the summer there is a considerable difference, because it is only ten to fifteen degrees during the day.

Alaska’s climate can be divided into a few different climate zones. The southeast of Alaska, where you will find the capital Juneau, has a temperate maritime climate (type Cfb) according to the Köppen-Geiger climate classification. At an average of about 1,300 millimeters per year, this is a fairly wet part of Alaska, but it is also the warmest area in the state. Most of Alaska has a cool continental climate (type Dfc), with the temperature in the summer months above the set limit of ten degrees. The northernmost part of Alaska has a tundra climate (type ET). In the dark winter months, the temperature in this area sometimes drops tens of degrees below freezing, both at night and during the day. In summer, the thermometer does not rise far above freezing and frost on the ground at night is quite normal.

Climate figures

The figures below are based on long-term average climate statistics. The temperatures are displayed in degrees Celsius (°C).

maximum temperature minimum temperature hours of sunshine per day days of rainfall per month water temperature
January -6℃ -14℃ 3 9 6℃
February -3℃ -12℃ 4 8 5℃
March 0℃ -8℃ 6 8 5℃
April 6℃ -2℃ 8 7 5℃
May 13℃ 4℃ 9 9 7℃
June 16℃ 8℃ 9 10 10℃
July 19℃ 11℃ 8 12 13℃
August 17℃ 10℃ 7 14 13℃
September 13℃ 5℃ 5 14 12℃
October 5℃ -2℃ 4 12 9℃
November -3℃ -10℃ 3 9 8℃
December -6℃ -13℃ 2 11 7℃

The climate of Anchorage

Anchorage is the most northerly important city in America, with a population of just under four hundred thousand, it is also the largest city in the state of Alaska. However, it is not the capital of Alaska, because that is the southeast city of Juneau. The main reason that about a third of the total population of the state of Alaska has settled in Anchorage is an economic one. The presence of oil and natural gas in the immediate vicinity caused a growth spurt in the second half of the last century. Anchorage has mainly become an industrial city, which benefits from the relatively mild climate under the influence of the seawater for a city at 61 degrees North.

Anchorage has a cool continental climate (type Dfb), also called a subarctic climate, according to the Köppen climate system. During the winter, the cold is tempered by the seawater, making it between minus fifteen and freezing during the day. At night there is mainly moderate to severe frost and snow falls regularly. Spring arrives in April, after which temperatures in the summer months approach twenty degrees. In the period from April to the beginning of October, the weather is quite pleasant for people as well as plants and animals.

The climate of Barrow

Barrow is one of the northernmost places in the world and the northernmost place in the United States. Most tourists come here for the Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Ocean and the impressive Arctic. The city mainly serves as a weather station and as a base for scientific research. The original population, the Inuit, have been living here since the 9th century AD.

Barrow has a polar climate. This climate is characterized by extremely low temperatures, in winter it can be -58 °C. This in combination with high winds makes life in Barrow very difficult. Even in the very short summer months it remains very cool. Due to its location on the sea, the temperature is less low compared to other polar cities. There is little precipitation in Barrow, the precipitation will mainly fall in late summer and autumn.

The climate of Bethel

Bethel is a very remote place in southwestern Alaska. Bethel is located where the Kuskokwim River flows into the Bering Sea. The place can only be reached by air and water. The nearby villages depend on the goods that are brought here. The original inhabitants of Bethel lived mainly by fishing and smoking fish.

Bethel has a subarctic, or cold continental climate. Like other land climates, the differences between summer and winter are huge. The climate has very cold winters, with temperatures well below -30°C. However, the short summer can also get quite warm, with maximums around 30°C. Most precipitation falls in the summer. In the months of October and November the precipitation changes to snow.

The climate of Dutch Harbor

Dutch Harbor is located in the Bering Sea in the extreme southeast of Alaska. Dutch Harbor belongs to the municipality of Unalaska. It is one of the largest fishing ports in the United States, landing millions of tons of fish every year. In addition, there are two large military naval complexes in the port. These were built here in World War II to withstand the Japanese threat. In the past, the area also served as a market for fur traders from Russia.

Dutch Harbor has a subarctic climate. However, due to its location on the extensive headland, the climate is strongly influenced by the ocean. This is reflected in the temperature, the amount of wind that blows along the coastal town and the precipitation that falls there. Dutch Harbor is one of the wettest places in Alaska.

The climate of Fairbanks

Fairbanks is one of the largest inland cities in Alaska. The city has a beautiful view of Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, some 200 days a year. In the winter months there is only light for a small number of hours per day. In the summer months it remains almost completely light for a few days.

Fairbanks has a cool continental climate or a subarctic climate. Due to its location in a valley, it has a number of special weather conditions. In addition to the large differences in summer and winter temperatures, there are also large temperature differences during the seasons. Due to the lack of sunlight and the location in the depth of the valley, it is very cold in winter. But if the wind from the south brings warm air, it can suddenly become a lot warmer. Fairbanks is also familiar with the phenomenon of ice fog. Due to the humidity and the low temperature, water droplets turn into tiny mini-droplets of ice, which together form a kind of fog.

The climate of Juneau

Juneau is located in southeastern Alaska on the Gulf of Alaska and the Alexander Archipelago. Juneau has a long history. Indians made this place their residence for centuries before the beginning of our era. The different peoples of Auke and Taku had a rich culture, with beautifully decorated handicrafts, woven rugs, art, song and dance. The city is still an important center for these cultures.

Juneau has a climate that lies between the cool maritime climate and the subarctic climate. For an area in this region the weather is relatively mild. Temperatures drop less in winter than in other places in Alaska. This is due to the moderating influence of the ocean. There is a lot of snow in the city from November to February. The summer months are relatively cool. The temperature between summer and winter is not far apart.

The climate of Ketchikan

Ketchikan is named after the Ketchikan River that runs through the city. Most people in the city live from tourism and fishing. Salmon is mainly fished here. Ketchikan has a large number of totem poles. In an effort to help the original inhabitants find work, they were asked to reproduce their old totem poles. These poles can still be admired in the city.

Ketchikan has a much milder climate than you would expect at this altitude. Due to the influence of the sea, Ketchikan has a cool maritime climate. The average temperature in the winter months is above freezing and the summer months also have a fairly pleasant average temperature compared to the region. The rainfall in Ketchikan is huge, it rains a lot here all year round. Most rain falls in autumn and winter.

The climate of Kodiak

Kodiak was purchased by the United States in 1867. The area was inhabited long before our era by the original inhabitants, the Inuit. They lived mainly from hunting, fishing and trade in furs. The Russians colonized the area before the Americans bought it. Today the city is a commercial port and tourists mainly come here for fishing and hunting.

Kodiak has a cool maritime climate. The influence of the sea ensures that the temperature is not far apart in the summer and winter months. The temperature in the winter months is much higher than in other areas in Alaska. Its location by the sea does ensure a large amount of precipitation. Most precipitation falls in October to April. From October this is often in the form of snowfall.

The climate of Nome

Nome is located in western Alaska, on the Bering Sea and Norton Sound. Nome is one of Alaska’s most populous cities. When gold was discovered in the city at the end of the 19th century, it grew explosively. Production has decreased in recent years, but gold is still found in the mine. As a result, the city still attracts many fortune seekers.

Nome has a subarctic climate. The summer months are short and very cool. The winter months have extremely low temperatures. The location close to the Bering Strait does have a moderating influence on the temperatures. The warm winds that are brought over the ocean in winter cause a rise in temperature.

Nome Alaska