People often speak of the Climate of Alaska and give it as the reason for Alaskans being the worst dressed of the Nation. This post presents you the actually different climate regions of Alaska, and their weather conditions with respect to precipitation and temperature. It explains why arguing with Alaska as a place and/or Alaska’s cold climate is plain wrong. After reading you can see why Alaska is no reason to dress without trying at all.

Contents
  1. Alaskans’ Clothing Style in the Public Prejudice
  2. Alaska Has More than One Climate
  3. Alaska Has Three Main Climates
  4. Polar Climate on the North Slope
  5. The Snow Climate of Alaska in the Interior and Anchorage
  6. Climate of Alaska: Conditions on the Panhandle
  7. Why the Climate of Alaska Is No Explanation for Being Worst Dressed
  8. My Interior Alaska August Look of the Day

 

Alaskans’ Clothing Style in the Public Prejudice

In 2012, Travel & Leisure published a poll that named Anchorage the worsted-dressed city in America. Many people explained the ranking by “it being Alaska,” i.e. the last Frontier and/or “Alaska’s cold climate.”

 

Alaska Has More than One Climate

Second, there is no such thing as Alaska’s cold climate. Alaska when projected onto the Lower 48s reaches from coast to coast. For my European readers, Alaska is larger than Europe from the Ural to Portugal. Given the size, it is obvious that Alaska has a variety of climate regions. They are called climate divisions by the National Weather Service. These climate divisions refer to areas of similar landscape, topography, vegetation, and similar meteorological conditions (temperature, humidity, wind, precipitation).

Alaska shown at the same scale as the Lower 48s
Alaska and USA at same scale. It nearly reaches coast-to-coast when projected at same scale onto the continental US.
Alaska climate divisions according to NWS
Alaska climate divisions according to NWS. From: NOAA

Alaska Has Three Main Climates

The Köppen-Geiger classification distinguishes three main climates in Alaska, namely warm temperate (C), snow (D), and polar climate (E). These climate regions are subdivided with respect to summer and winter temperature ranges and further subdivided with respect to when precipitation occur, i.e., year round (f), dry summer (s), or dry winter (w). In Alaska, these climate sub-classifications have shifted since onset of recording, and the borders are fluent.

 

Polar Climate on the North Slope

The North Slope has cold, dry polar tundra climate (ET). Summers are cool. In July, the warmest month, mean minimum and maximum temperatures at Barrow, for instance, are 35F (2oC) and 47F (8oC), respectively. The combination of cold air and strong wind makes winters dangerous on the North Slope. The annual total precipitation is about 4.49 inches (114 mm). Snow can occur year round. Precipitation peaks in August with July and September having the second and third most precipitation.

#FocusAlaska Monthly mean precipitation (blue) and temperature (red) at Barrow, AK
Monthly mean precipitation (blue bars) and mean air temperature (red curve) at Barrow, Alaska

 

The Snow Climate of Alaska in the Interior and Anchorage

The climate of the Interior (Dfc) is subarctic (D) with long, very cold winters, and (too) short, cool summers (c), in which the most of the precipitation occurs. Precipitation occurs year round (f). Thus, the Interior and, hence, Fairbanks have similar climate as Norisk (Russia) or Mohe (China).

Mean monthly precipitation (blue) and temperature (red) at Fairbanks, AK
Monthly mean precipitation (blue bars) and mean air temperature (red curve) at Fairbanks, Alaska

 

Anchorage’s winters are cold, but much warmer than those in the Interior. Anchorage has a climate with a strong, sub-polar maritime component similar to that in Murmansk (Russia). Due to the maritime influence, winters are relatively moderate in Anchorage because its climate borders sub-polar oceanic climate. Anchorage’s precipitation occurs year round with a distinct maximum in summer. Except for the precipitation aspect Anchorage’s climate is more similar to that of Reykjavik (Iceland) or Tórshavn (Faroe Islands) than to that of Fairbanks.

 

Monthly mean precipitation (blue) and temperature (red) at Anchorage, AK
Monthly mean precipitation (blue bars) and mean air temperature (red curve) at Anchorage, Alaska

 

Climate of Alaska: Conditions on the Panhandle

Warm temperate also called maritime climate exists in Southeast Alaska along the Panhandle. Here the polar front leads to changeable weather with overcast sky and year round precipitation (f). Southeast Alaska’s summers are cool due to the cool ocean currents and winters are milder (b) than in regions of similar latitude due to the high heat capacity of the close ocean. This means that the climate in Ketchikan (Cfb), for instance, is similar to that in Bergen (Norway), London (UK), Zürich (Switzerland), Paris (France), Melbourne (Australia), Auckland (New Zealand), or Sky Valley (Georgia, USA). More on how to dress for maritime climate.

 

Monthly mean precipitation (blue) and temperature (red) at Juneau, AK
Monthly mean precipitation (blue bars) and mean air temperature (red curve) at Juneau, Alaksa

 

Why the Climate of Alaska Is No Explanation for Being Worst Dressed

First, climate is not weather. Instead, climate is the longterm mean over typically 30 years of the respective weather. It is the statics of a time series of temperatures, daily minimum temperatures, daily maximum temperatures, daily precipitation, etc.

Second, Anchorage is not Alaska. It just happens to be the city in Alaska where the majority of the Alaskans live. Juneau, the second most populated city, has the largest area. It winds along the fjord with steep glacier covered mountains to one side and water to the other. Fairbanks has the third most inhabitants and is located in the wide valley of the Tanana Flats with the White Mountains and Brookes Range to the North and the Alaska Range to the south.

 

My Interior Alaska August Look of the Day

#styleover40 mature woman in casual work outfit
Side view of look of the day

 

fashion blogger dressed for the summer in Interior Alaska in casual work outfit with denim jacket
Other view of casual work outfit suitable for the summer weather in Interior Alaska

 

#fashionover40 mature woman in chinos
Oliveo chinos, Great Northwest denim jacket, Brooke Brothers sweater, Kieselstein Cord belt, Tommy Hilfiger sandals, and Jaeger tote

 

What kind of climate do you have where you live? Hot summers and cold winters or warm summers and cool winters? Do you have precipitation year round or a distinct dry and wet season?

You may also like to read about Chinook or rain days in Alaska.

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References

Kottek, M.,  Grieser, N., Beck, C., Rudolf, B., and Rubel, F., 2006. World Map of the Köppen-Geiger climate classification updated. Meteorologische Zeitschrift, Vol. 15, No. 3, 259-263.

Mölders, N., 2016. How to Dress for Success in Midlife. Amazon Paperback.

Mölders, N., Kramm, G., 2014. Lectures in Meteorology, Springer, New York.

Photos: G. Kramm
Graphics: N. Mölders

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