Alaskan Climate and Seasons
There’s more to Alaska than permafrost
Many travelers are hesitant to embark on an Alaska tour for fear of the bitter cold that they’ve heard so much about. What many don’t realize, however, is that for much of the year, Alaska’s climate is quite comfortable and not at all the freezing blizzards that so many imagine.
The most popular time to visit Alaska is between May and September, when the days are longer and the weather more welcoming. Many Alaska tours take place in the later weeks of May and throughout June, when travelers can enjoy warm afternoons and bright, sunny skies. Summer and fall tend to be the rainier seasons in Alaska. The different regions of Alaska all have different climates and receive different levels of precipitation throughout the year.
- Southcentral Alaska enjoys fairly mild temperatures, but does receive a fair amount of precipitation. Over the year, it’s common for certain cities in the area to receive a total of 25 feet of snow.
- Southeast Alaska is warmer but definitely rainy. Some areas in the southeast receive 220 inches of rain in the course of a year. Rain gear is recommended for trips along the Inside Passage at any time of the year.
- The Interior’s weather is unpredictable at best. In the summer, temperatures can soar to 90 degrees Fahrenheit one day, only to be followed by a snowstorm the next. Temperature and weather swings are common. In the winter, you can almost always rely on extremely cold temperatures, dipping as low as minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit for periods of several days
- The Northern area of Alaska is rightly considered a frigid place to visit. In the winter, days colder than minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit are common. While many parts of the north don’t get much warmer than 15 F in the summer, some protected places have been known to reach 70 F and higher.
- Western Alaska’s proximity to the sea makes it a stormy place to visit, but the frequent rain and fog make it a great habitat for salmon.
Sun and the seasons in Alaska
Many visitors arrange Alaska tours to take part in the phenomenon that is the midnight sun. Just as Alaska has its summer, winter, fall and spring, it also has sun seasons. Because of Alaska’s northerly location and the axis of the earth, it enjoys the phenomena of the midnight sun and polar night.
On March 21, the vernal equinox brings the sun in line with the equator. By June 21, Alaska receives its longest day of the year - a day when the sun never sets. Some areas of the state experience 24 hours of sunlight and locals celebrate with late-night ball games and extended shopping hours. These long days last for weeks, but slowly, the days become shorter, culminating six months later in polar night.
As the days shorten, starting around September 23, Alaskans prepare themselves for polar night, a period of days in December when the sun never peeks over the horizon. During polar night, the state is left in darkness even at high noon. The phenomenon of extremely long days and nights draws many visitors to book their Alaska tours around these two solstices.