Life at the Last Frontier is quite different from life in the Lower 48s. This post elucidates one (of many) examples, namely, why Alaskans get rain days, not snow days.

  1. What’s a Rain Day in Alaska?
  2. Drops Freeze on any Supercooled Surface
  3. More Alaska Curiosa

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What’s a Rain Day in Alaska?

Last Monday, the Fairbanks’ students had a rain day. Yes, a rain day. When you live in mid-latitude or subtropical climate you wonder. You have rain on average every three days or daily, respectively. What’s the problem about rain in Alaska? It’s not a problem in our summer (June, July), in our rain season (August), or our spring (May) and fall (September). It’s a winter (October to April) problem.

Drops Freeze on any Supercooled Surface

In winter, all surfaces are usually at temperatures below the freezing point. When now a cyclone moves in with warm air, the warm air moves over the heavy cold air that sits on the ground. The rainwater of the warm air now falls into the cold air and on the cold ground. When these super-cooled raindrops hit a surface they freeze upon impact. Think of aircraft icing. This freezing leads to slippy, hazardous road conditions and an ice shield everywhere. We could not even open our garage door! The rain that fell against it, had frozen the door shut 🙂 .

street style blogger combining various ethnic pieces in one outfit
Eddy Bauer Fair Isle sweater with ethnic belt, denim shirt, suede skirt, GNW tights, and Double H lace-up booties (all own)
measuring the ice thickness after freezing rain in Fairbanks, Alaska
Measuring the ice thickness on the concrete of our driveway after removing the ice in this spot. The ruler shows centimeters on the left and inches on the r.h.s. The ice is spongy indicating immediate freezing upon impact. Clear ice like ice cubes would indicate a slow freezing process


The photo above shows the thickness of the ice on our driveway. Here it was about 1.5 cm (0.6 inch). However, there were places in town where the ice was even thicker than this. The ice shield remains until melt-up. It wears down a bit at road crossings or on heavy traveled roads. But that process fails to improve the driving conditions. On the contrary, you get the feeling of driving over a road full of pot-holes in the Utah desert except for the heat.

Alaskan kids get rain days, not snow days. #AlaskaCuriosa Click To Tweet
Nicole of High Latitude Style in white leather winter coat with faux fur details
Winter white LeatherCoatsEtc leather coat with faux fur details and quilted lining styled with Double H lace-up booties, Palova Russian scarf, LeatherCoatsEtc beret, LeatherCoatsEtc black leather gloves and structured bag (all own)

More Alaska Curiosa

You can find another posts on Chinook in Alaska and other posts on other Alaska curious things like wearing PJs outside in public and about the food that is brought to typical Alaskan potluck parties.

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Photos: G. Kramm

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