The Interior’s annual precipitation total is that of a desert
From an ecological and climate point of view Interior Alaska is a cold desert due to its low annual precipitation. In Fairbanks, for instance, accumulated precipitation amounts on 30-year mean about 11.3 inches (287 mm), of which most falls as snow during the about 6 to 7 months of the cold season (mid September to mid May). For comparison, the 30-year average annual precipitation of Cologne, Germany (50°56′N 6°57′E), Marrakesh, Morocco Sahara desert (31°37’N, 8°1’W, 1529 ft, 466 m) and Moab, Utah desert amount about 33.02 inches (838.6 mm), 11.1 inches (281.3 mm) and 9.02 inches (229 mm), respectively.
The Interior is in the rain shadow
The majority of the storms reach the Interior from the Gulf of Alaska and have to pass the Alaska Range. During the ascend over the mountains they loose a huge amount of their water load on the southern slopes of the ranges. Consequently, the Interior lays in a rain shadow. For comparison, Anchorage (61°13′N 149°54′W) and Juneau (58°18N 134°25′W) that are south of the Alaska Range have 16.63 inches (422 mm) and 55 to 92 inches (1,400 to 2,340 mm), depending on location in this widely extended city of annual precipitation on 30-year average.
Low evapotranspiration and sublimation permit a green summer landscape
Even though the annual accumulated precipitation in Interior Alaska amounts only about 300 mm there are many large streams like the Tanana and the Yukon, contributory rivers like the Nenana and Chena, thousands of wet and dry creeks, armlets, dead stream branches, bayous, and bogs. Some of the streams are glacier-fed from the Alaska Range in the South and the Brooks Range in the North, while others are precipitation-fed. The on average low temperatures, and low wind speeds keep sublimation of snow, evaporation of water and transpiration by plants low. Thus, in summer, the Interior is very green and all these open waters are perfect breading places for mosquitoes and alike.
Waters are a mosquito breading paradise
The first generation of mosquitoes shows up right upon onset of snow-melt and breakup of the smaller rivers. They are small compared to the later ones. Mosquitoes are everywhere. People in the Interior always look forward to the arrival of the first dragon flies in mid June as they munch on mosquitoes. The first robins are also welcome for the same reason.
Robins and dragonflies are welcome
In spring, it often happens that a robin or dragon fly follows you around when you mow your lawn with a push mower. The mower scares the mosquitoes and they leave their hide-outs in the grass and became an easy meal for the predators.
Mosquitoes take repellents as an appetizer
When we immigrated to the Interior we did what all tourists and newcomers from mid-latitudes do, we bought mosquito repellents. Unfortunately, they seemed not to work. Thus, we asked Alaskans who had a sourdough status of 20 years or more about what they do with respect to the mosquitoes. Their answer was
We just ignore them. You’ll get used to them or leave within two years.
Upon asking why they won’t use a mosquito repellent we got the answer
They take it as an appetizer.
How I handle mosquitoes
When I go outside in the early morning or evening hours or into the shadow, I wear long sleeves in a tightly woven fabric, jeans, knee-high tightly woven socks and closed shoes. Nevertheless, I will get some bites on a regular basis unless I wear a mosquito net. Walking without a mosquito net I call giving the mosquitoes dinner. You can’t even imaginge how much beef the Alaska mosquitoes balance.
Are there a lot of mosquitoes where you live? Are they there over the entire warm season? What do you do about them? Do you use a mosquito repellent or just ignore them? Let me Let me know, I am curious about your solution.
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You may be also interested in reading about the behavior of green-up in the Interior.
Photos: G. Kramm
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