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In this 25-second time exposure Dog Musher's Hall is seen in the foreground as the aurora lights up the sky over Fairbanks, Alaska, Saturday night, Sept. 30, 2006. (AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, John Hagen) "Aurora en Fairbanks, Alaska" by Mexicaans fotomagazijn is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Sure there are regions in Alaska that don’t have daylight for a long time. However, in regions below the Arctic Circle there still exists some daylight for a short day of time. This post informs about Fairbanks winter solstice and day light length in other cities of Alaska and how people cope with the darkness. Read on to get the knowledge.


  1. Living in the Dark
  2. How Long Is the Shortest Day in Fairbanks?
  3. A 64 Days Long Night
  4. On the Panhandle, Day Length Is Similar to Mid-latitudes
  5. Impacts of short daylight around Fairbanks Winter Solstice
  6. Lightning Up
  7. Darkness has its romantic moments


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Living in the Dark

This week is winter solstice, an event that every fashionista and fashionister looks forward to like many others on this planet. Fashion bloggers in the northern regions look forward to more daylight as it provides better light conditions for outfit photos. While indoor outfit photos work well with flash light every fashion blogger prefers natural light. 🙂


Alaskan blogger posing ins a tweed skirt, Fair Isle sweater in the dark nights of Alaska's winter

winter solstice in Fairbanks: living with 3h56min daylight
Indoor outfit photo made with flash light: G-III skirt, Eddie Bauer Fair Isle sweater, Kieselstein Cord belt, GNW tight, native American made buckle, and Manolo Blahnik booties (all own)


What does winter solstice mean living in Alaska? Well, it depends on where you live in Alaska. If you would project Alaska 1:1 onto the Lower 48, it would reach from the West Coast to the East Coast, from the Great Lakes down to Florida.

Alaska shown at the same scale as the Lower 48s
Alaska show at the same scale as the Lower 48s


How Long Is the Shortest Day in Fairbanks?

diagram showing the time of sunrise and sunset in Interior Alaska
Annual course of sun rise and sun set in Fairbanks, Alaska. Twilight is about two hours. In mid August, enough daylight is lost that there are dark nights again and the aurora can again be seen in clear sky nights


Let’s start with Fairbanks. The Sun rises at 10:50 am and sets at 2:46 pm on December 21, i.e. 3h and 56 min of daylight (see graphic). Since the Sun is so low above the horizon (see first photo of this post) twilight starts at 9:28 am and ends at 4:08 pm. In my opinion, the darkness is not that bad at all. I love the pink light during the short daylight time (photo below).


Living with 3h 56min of day light
Winter solstice on the Fairbanks campus. From: Alaska Centers (2012)


During the day, the light is pink up North. Nights seem not as dark as in snow-free mid-latitudes at the same time of the year. The snow reflects all light there is. Just think of a full moon rising over the snow. Or the aurora shown in the featured photo of this post. It shows Dog Musher’s Hall in the foreground as the aurora lights up the sky over Fairbanks, Alaska.


pink trees in Interior Alaska
Pink trees due to the low sun zenith angle in December and January in Interior Alaska



A 64 Days Long Night

In Barrow, which is the largest community north of the Arctic Circle, the Sun sets on November 18 at 1:42 pm and will not rise before January 21 at 1:16 pm just to set again 42 minutes later.


On the Panhandle, Day Length Is Similar to Mid-latitudes

Juneau is more comparable to what you know when you live in Central Europe or the northern states of the US. Civil twilight starts at 7:50 am, the Sun rises at 8:43 am, sets at 3:07 pm, and twilight ends at 4:00 pm.


Alaskan blogger making snowballs in the darkness
Trying to form a snowball out of powder snow in silver leather pants, gray sweater over a layering top in another shade of gray in Michael Kors camouflage wedge sneakers and Hermes collier de chien bangle


Impacts of Short Daylight around Fairbanks Winter Solstice

Of course, many people suffer from S.A.D. (seasonal affected depression). The natural vitamin D levels reach their minimum in March. However, many Alaskans north of the Alaska Range take vitamin D supplements. In November, happy lamps, which provide the same light spectrum as the sun rays reaching the Earth’s surface, sell like hot cakes. Tanning booths have their best business in December to March. Suicide rates are highest in January despite of gaining up to 7 minutes of daylight per day (see graph). In January, it’s when the cabin fever sets on.

A few people combat the darkness with alcohol. Whoever can afford it heads to Mexico or Hawaii for a short beach vacation or packs for a cruise thru the Caribbean Sea.


Lightning Up

I love this time of the year. People decorate their yards with twinkle lights (see next two photos). There are lights in the windows, along the gutters, driveways, and in the trees all over campus. The Geophysical Institute has a big blue five pointy star on the roof. The borough’s administrative building is decorated with lights to look like a gift box. Snow crystal shaped lights illuminate the streets of downtown Fairbanks.


crib display with twinkle lights in a front yard in College Alaska
Crib display in a yard in College, Alaska


People are really creative with their holiday decoration. The newspaper even publishes the locations of the must-see Christmas lights. Yes, people drive around town to see them.

Christmas decoration in a yard around Fairbanks winter solstice
Christmas decoration



Darkness Has Its Romantic Moments

It is very cozy (and kitschy-romantic) having a meal in a restaurant with dimmed-down light and hearing the noise of the open fire in the fire place. The window twinkle lights reflect on the glass and the snow and the aurora is dancing in chartreuse green in the sky, and you look into the eyes of your sweetheart enjoying the warmth when it is cold outside.

Do you like this time of the year? Do you like darkness? Are you happy when the days get longer again? Let me know, I am curious.


Photos of me: G. Kramm

Diagram: N. Mölders

Featured photo: “Aurora en Fairbanks, Alaska” by Mexicaans fotomagazijn is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

© 2013-2023 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved

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