The climate of Alaska
has multiple climate zones that include an arctic type (Köppen ET) in the extreme north, oceanic (Köppen climate classification Cfb) to subpolar oceanic (Köppen Cfc) in the southeast and southwest, subarctic continental (Köppen Dfb, Dfc) in the interior and southcentral regions. Patches of cold semi-arid type (Köppen BSk) regions lie in the extreme north-central and east. Alaska lies in the extreme northwest of the United States, with the Pacific Ocean to its south. A maritime border with Russia lies in the west. The Arctic Ocean is to the north, while the Yukon territory of Canada and the province of British Columbia border the east and southeast of Alaska. The proximity to the Arctic Circle and the vast ocean waters mainly impact the climate.
Alaska, the Last Frontier, is the largest state in America and has an average elevation of 590 meters above sea level. Denali is the highest peak in North America at 6191 meters, while several other peaks extend above 5000 meters. Marshlands, flatlands, high mountains, glaciers, millions of lakes, and numerous rivers constitute the diverse topography of the state. Permafrost is dominant in the northern third of the state's geography. The Brooks Range protects the interior from glacial arctic winds, while the Alaska-Aleutian Range extends to the east. The Northern Slopes region is mainly tundra with a small population. The interior is the largest region with a mostly uninhabited wilderness. The panhandle in the southeast is the closest region to the United States.
The extreme north of Alaska has long, frigid winters and short, cool summers, while the climate warms progressively towards the south. Summers are occasionally extreme in central and eastern pockets of Alaska, with temperatures crossing the 90°F (32.2°C) mark. The interior and southeastern panhandle sections register average high temperatures in the 65°F (18.3°C) to 70°F (21.1°C) range in the summer. Winter is severely cold, with the average low temperatures at -3°F (-19.4°C) at the peak of January
. Spring is cold, while the fall is wet.
Snowfall averages a massive 270" (6858mm) annually in Alaska and lasts throughout the year except for the summer. The North Slope receives up to 30" (762mm) of snowfall, which tends to stay on the ground throughout the season. The average annual rainfall is a moderate 37" (940mm) in Alaska with a peak during the early fall season. Few regions in the southeast receive as much as 200" (5080mm) of rain, while the North Slope rarely receives more than 4" (102mm). Precipitation decreases to 60" (1524mm) in the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands regions and rapidly decreases to 10" (254mm) in the north. The average annual sunshine lasts for only 1560 hours in the year, with the sunniest period between June
and the darkest period from November
The highest temperature on record in Alaska is 100°F (37.8°C) at Fort Yukon on June 27, 1915, while Prospect Creek recorded the lowest temperature of -80°F (-62.2°C) on January 23, 1971.
The best time to visit Alaska
The best time to visit Alaska
is from June
during the moderate summer season. The interior areas are warm to occasionally hot during the summer but cold during the night. The north and northwest have cold nights and mild days at the best. The sunshine is highest during June with moderate precipitation and snowfall. The temperatures are mild in the south, but people who embark on boating trips face a cold environment. The summer usually brings more sunshine in Alaska, but the roads are slippery in many parts with the thawing of snow.
The worst time to visit Alaska
The worst time to visit Alaska
is from December
in the severely cold season. Winters have freezing nights in the state, and even the days remain below freezing in the extreme north and northwest. The skies are gray with the sunshine at its weakest of the year. Snowfall is massive and along with the piercing wind, is a detriment to outdoor activities. Severe cold is a real danger, and brief exposure to ice-cold water can prove deadly. February and March
receive plenty of snow but receive adequate sunshine in the central and southern regions of the state.
is prone to volcanic activity, earthquakes, floods, and severe snowstorms. The Aleutian Islands chain lies in the Pacific Ring of Fire and is home to many active volcanoes. Mount Augustine last erupted in 2006 with frequent seismic disturbances, plumes of volcanic ash, steam, and gas. Volcanic ash went as far as the Kenai Peninsula, and the volcano region remains prone to seismic activity. The thawing of snow causes flooding during late spring and summer. Blizzards deposit large amounts of snow in the winter and stall everyday life. Wind speeds are frequently above 50mph (80.5km/h) along the coast and in the mountain ranges.
Weather in January
is the peak of the winter in Alaska
, with the average temperatures in the freezing range of -3°F (-19.4°C) to 10°F (-12.2°C). Prudhoe Bay in the far north is in the grip of ice, snow, and cold with temperatures in the bone-chilling -22°F (-30°C) to -10°F (-23.3°C) zone. Weather in January »
Weather in February
is icy in Alaska
, with the average temperatures in the -1°F (-18.3°C) to 15°F (-9.4°C) zone. The days are short, and the daily sunshine lasts for 4 to 5 hours in the majority of the state. Snowstorms often stall everyday life with vast deposits of snow and raging winds that make it difficult for snowplows and trucks to operate. February receives on an average 45" (1143mm) of snow, but the regions of heavy snowfall have relatively mild temperatures. Weather in February »
Weather in March
sees the transition from the winter to the spring season in Alaska
with cold temperatures and a significant increase in daily sunshine hours. Temperatures average in the freezing range of 4°F (-15.6°C) to 21°F (-6.1°C) in the state. Weather in March »
Weather in April
is the driest month of the year in Alaska
as the spring season brings increased sunshine to the state. The days are mild to warm, but the nights are often cold and below freezing. The snowfall is ample and averages 28" (711mm) in the state, with Yakutat in the southeast receiving 10" (254mm). Anchorage in the southcentral region registers temperatures in the 29°F (-1.7°C) to 46°F (7.8°C) but receives little rainfall and a moderate amount of snow. Weather in April »
Weather in May
is a beautiful month at the peak of the spring season in Alaska
. Wildflowers bloom over the landscape, and wild animals roam the land. Spring offers an Alaska experience that is complete with the watching of the whales, bears, moose, and eagles in their natural habitat. Weather in May »
Weather in June
welcomes the warm summer season to Alaska
with moderate to hot days and a decline in precipitation. The average temperatures are in the 41°F (5°C) to 59°F (15°C) range, with plenty of variation between the north and south regions. Weather in June »
Weather in July
is the hottest month of the year in Alaska
, with the average temperatures in the range of 46°F (7.8°C) to 62°F (16.7°C). The interior of the state sees temperatures above 90°F (32.2°C) at the peak of the summer, while the ocean keeps the coastal areas cooler. Weather in July »
Weather in August
is warm in Alaska
as the beautiful summer draws to a close. Temperatures are in the average range of 42°F (5.6°C) to 58°F (14.4°C) statewide, with variations by altitude and region. Seward in the southcentral region registers temperatures in the mild 50°F (10°C) to 62°F (16.7°C) range. Weather in August »
Weather in September
is the wettest month of the year in Alaska
as the short autumn season finds its way in the beautiful state. As the sunlight decreases rapidly to last only 4 hours a day, the temperatures decrease steadily, with an uptick in rainfall. The average temperatures are in the mild to cold 41°F (5°C) to 48°F (8.9°C) zone, with snowfall to the tune of 4.4" (112mm) statewide. Weather in September »
Weather in October
is the time of peak foliage in Alaska
with spectacular colors on display. Hues of gold, crimson, orange, and many others make the landscape look straight out of fairyland. Juneau is warmer between 39°F (3.9°C) to 42°F (5.6°C) than the average temperatures in the state that are in the cold 19°F (-7.2°C) to 31°F (-0.6°C) range. Weather in October »
Weather in November
sees severely cold weather in Alaska
with the onset of the long winter season. The average temperatures are below freezing in the 6°F (-14.4°C) to 18°F (-7.8°C), but nights are below 0°F (-17.8°C) in many places. Weather in November »
Weather in December
extends the realm of the harsh winter in Alaska
with gray skies, rain, and abundant snow. The average snowfall is the highest of the season at 46" (1168mm) and remains on the ground for many days. Valdez in the southcentral region receives a massive 72" (1829mm) of snow in a typical winter season. Weather in December »