A tradition in many families and communities is to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks. So it was when I grew up as a kid in West Germany. In Alaska, the great spectacle does not take at the beginning of the new year, but still in the in the old one. No, the clock’s don’t tick different at the Last Frontier. This post covers why the fireworks start at the same time as in NYC at Times Square.
- In Fairbanks, the NYE Firework Starts at 8 PM
- Why at 8 PM?
- Another Reason Is the Audience
- Thus, Why Not Earlier?
- A Random Benifit of the Earlier Time
- Sexy Outfit of the Day
In Fairbanks, the NYE Firework Starts at 8 PM
Traditionally, Fairbanks has their New Year’s firework at 8 pm Alaska Standard Time which is Eastern Time minus four hours. This means the Fairbanksans watch their fireworks at the same time as the people on the East Coast. No, in Fairbanks the clocks don’t tick differently than anywhere else in Alaska.
The fireworks are on the West Ridge of the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. This location allows Fairbanksans to well watch it from home when they live in the University Hills, on the hills of the Goldstream Valley, and many places along the Chena River, Chena Ridge, College and even some places downtown. We can see them from our living room.
Why at 8 PM?
At locations close to the Arctic Circle, celebrating New Year’s with the classic display is a challenge for various reasons; and they are quite different from those why there are no fireworks in Fairbanks, Alaska on July 4.
In clear winter nights, radiative cooling leads to strong heat loss to space. Thus, temperatures near the Earth’s surface drop fast. This means it will be much colder four hours later when the New Year starts than at 8 pm. This means that the poor fire(wo)men would have to handle the fireworks at even lower temperatures. Recall that at these freezing temperatures every metal you touch with bare hands freezes to your skin. To handle the equipment you need gloves. However, at these low temperatures, your fingers get quickly cold when you wear gloves instead of mittens.
Another Reason Is the Audience
Those people without a chance to watch the fireworks from the warmth of their homes have to go out in the cold. You can’t stand for 30 minutes in the cold of the night at -10F (-23.3oC) or even colder than that. Thus, people drive towards places where they can watch the fireworks from their car. They park along side roads that are parallel to campus or allow a good view on campus. They are idling their cars to keep the heating running. They are sitting wrapped in blankets over big puffer coats. They wear Sorel boots with extra socks watching the show from inside their cars. Once the spectacle is over, Fairbanks faces its biggest traffic jam of the year. Everyone is heading home or to where they want to spend the rest of the year.
Cars are not built to provide an insulation from the cold outside. They loose the heat fast thru the windows and metal frame. Thus, when the car heating is not able to replace the heat as fast as the car looses it to the outside environment, the air in the car is chilly despite of the heating running. Also people most likely do not wear their typical Alaska clothes underneath their downcoats, but what to wear for New Year’s Eve.
Thus, Why Not Earlier?
Many people drive into town for dinner on the last day of the old year. Typically, dinner reservations start at 6:30 pm or so. Thus, people can check out just in time to find a great spot along the road to watch the display after dinner. Most dances or New Year’s Eve parties and entertainment do not start before 9 pm. Thus, people can come to town early to watch the fireworks and then go to wherever they want to party.
However, another important reason is that people should not drink and drive. Thus, an early start keeps the roads safer than a firework at mid-night.
A Random Benefit of the Early Time
I assume the following benefit was not included when the organizers picked 8 pm for the fireworks years ago. The closer the time of the fireworks comes to about 6 am, the higher is the likelihood that the zinc, copper, sulfates, toxic gases, and who knows what else is captured in the near-surface layer by a strong inversion and contribute to Fairbanks’ air-quality problem. Recall daily minimum temperatures occur around 6 am local time.
Sexy Outfit of the Day
If there were a dance party on the last day of the year, I would wear this sexy dance dress with lace and floral print.
Happy New Year!
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Photos of me: G. Kramm
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