Photographer Mark Mahaney ( from California) traveled to Utqiagvik, Alaksa in 2019 to capture the final days of the season’s polar night. He documented the darkness for 12 days.
Imagine sitting in your office or the classroom in the middle of the day, and you look out the window and the street lights are on because it’s practically dark. Or maybe it’s midnight and you’re trying to sleep, but all you can do is lie awake in your bed because sunlight is shining brightly through your window.
Welcome to Alaska.
For about two months surrounding December’s winter solstice, the sun barely peeks above the horizon in Alaska. In fact, the northernmost city in America – Utqiaġvik, Alaska, formerly known as Barrow – has near-constant darkness from mid- to late November until late January becausethe sun never risesduring that 60-plus-day period.
64 DAYS OF NIGHT: ALASKA TOWN WON'T SEE THE SUN UNTIL JANUARY
Hours of daylight (sunrise to sunset) on the winter solstice.
(Dr Brian Brettschneider)
But in the months surrounding June’s summer solstice, the sun barely slips below the horizon in Alaska, so darkness never fully sets in – think of it like dusk that extends all the way through dawn.
And residents of Utqiaġvikdon’t even see a sunsetfor more than 80 days from early to mid-May until early August, so it’s probably not the best destination for a Fourth of July vacation if you’re hoping to watch a nighttime fireworks display.
The summer solstice means 24 hours of sunlight for Utqiagvik, Alaska.
Early summer in Alaska
Now you might be wondering how this translates to 24 hours of daylight when the sun is below the horizon for 4 hours and 38 minutes.
The sun is still above the horizon at midnight on the summer solstice, as viewed from the summit of Flattop Mountain just east of Anchorage, Alaska.
(Dr Brian Brettschneider)
"During our ‘night’ period on the summer solstice, the darkest we get is civil twilight, which is the lightest form of twilight," saidEric Drewitz, a meteorologist and the Assistant Science and Operations Officer at the National Weather Service office in Anchorage, Alaska.
WHY YOUR SUNSET CHART LOOKS WRONG, EVEN THOUGH IT ISN'T
Civil twilightis when the sun is less than 6 degrees below the horizon. There is alsonautical twilight, which is when the sun is between 6 and 12 degrees below the horizon, andastronomical twilight, with the sun between 12 and 18 degrees below the horizon. Night officially sets in when the sun falls 18 degrees or more below the horizon.
"During the summer solstice, the sun is approximately 5 degrees below the horizon at solar midnight," Drewitz said.
At solar noon, when the sun reaches its highest point of the day, the sun angle in Anchorage only reaches52.3 degrees above the horizonon the summer solstice, which is significantly lower in the sky than in the Lower 48 states. Drewitz noted that’s equivalent to the solar-noon sun angle in New York City on March 27-28 and Sept. 14-15, near the vernal (spring) and autumnal equinoxes, respectively. The sun angle reaches as high as72.7 degreesin the Big Apple on the first day of summer, some 20 degrees higher in the sky than in Anchorage.
Hours of daylight (sunrise to sunset) on the summer solstice.
(Dr Brian Brettschneider)
Even though Alaskan summers are relatively cool compared to what most people are accustomed to in June, July and August, indoor temperatures can get uncomfortably warm due to the lower sun angle. This is because when the sun is lower in the sky, its energy is spread out over a larger surface area. That, combined with more than 19 hours of sunlight during the day, causes homes to heat up like ovens.
UNITED STATES ENDURED HOTTEST SUMMER ON RECORD IN 2021, NOAA SAYS
"Alaskan architecture is very insulating due to our cold winters. Therefore, in the summers, it gets hot inside," Drewitz said. "When it is 65 degrees outside, it is 85 in my apartment, and thus, a portable air conditioner is highly recommended for the summer months."
Early winter in Alaska
The solar-noon sun angle? Only 5.5 degrees above the horizon.
The sun is barely above the horizon at noon on the winter solstice, as viewed from Flattop Mountain just east of Anchorage, Alaska.
(Dr Brian Brettschneider)
"When the maximum solar-noon sun angle is 5 degrees above the horizon or less, the sun provides no thermal heating for the day," Drewitz said.
No wonder winters are so cold in America’s 49th state.
For comparison, New York City sees a 25.9-degree sun angle at midday on the first day of winter, with a less-depressing 9 hours and 15 minutes of daylight. In fact, just40 minutes after sunrise, the sun is already higher in the sky in the Big Apple than it is all day in Anchorage.
How Alaskans deal with drastic seasonal changes in daylight
"In the summer, Alaskans like to have blackout curtains and sleeping masks," Drewitz said. "They help keep the room dark."
The only problem is, since indoor temperatures can get so warm in the summer, you need some airflow from the outdoors to make it more bearable if you don’t have air conditioning.
"Yes, blackout curtains are essential for many people," saiddr Brian Brettschneider, an Alaska-based climatologist. "Although on warm days, you need to keep windows open and fans running to cool the house at night – which means no curtains."
In general, though, most Alaskans really enjoy the long days of summer. And why wouldn’t they?
"Alaskans almost universally love the long days of summer. Imagine going fishing at midnight, or playing basketball at 11 p.m., or a hiking traverse through the middle of the night?" Brettschneider said. "The only complaints you'll hear are about it not lasting long enough."
Winter, on the other hand, is a different story. Although Alaskans typically aren’t bothered by snow or very cold temperatures, the wintertime darkness is difficult to cope with every year.
"Winter darkness does tend to have a negative effect on a number of people," Brettschneider explained. "In the cities, the reflection of street lights off the snow cover makes a tremendous difference in the psyche of residents."
HOW TO RECOGNIZE SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER AS WINTER APPROACHES
Drewitz said taking vitamin D is highly important in the winter because the human body produces less of it when it’s not exposed to enough sunlight. This is especially true in northern areas of Alaska such as Utqiaġvik, where civil twilight is the lightest it gets for some 60 days sincethe sun doesn’t riseabove the horizon from mid- to late November until late January.
Some people use happy lights – also known as light-therapy lamps – to help brighten the mood on a cold, dark winter’s day, Drewitz added, noting that the early evening can often feel like midnight because it has been dark for so long already.
The sun is barely above the horizon at noon on the winter solstice, as viewed from the summit of Flattop Mountain just east of Anchorage, Alaska.
(Dr Brian Brettschneider)
"Very few people celebrate the shortness of the days (daylight) in winter and instead count the days until ‘normal’ daylight returns," said Brettschneider.
Speaking of that, fall and spring in Alaska are the most similar to the rest of the United States in terms of daylight, so there are a couple of periods each year when Alaska’s days are a "normal" length.
"On the equinoxes, everywhere on Earth experiences 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness," Drewitz said. "Due to that, our sunrise and sunset times are normal like the Lower 48."
WHY FALL SHOULD ACTUALLY BEGIN ON SEPTEMBER 1
It should be noted, however, that the amount of daylight dramatically increases from day to day near the first day of spring and drastically decreases each day near the first day of fall. Utqiaġvik gains about 9 minutes of daylightevery day in March, while the days each shorten by about 9 minutes in September.
"I've been through a few fall and spring transition seasons now, and the only word I can come up with to describe the rapid day-to-day daylight changes is: wild," saidLuke Culver, a meteorologist at the NWS office in Fairbanks, Alaska. "During this time, you gain/lose ... almost an hour of daylight per week. Imagine going to work Monday morning and the sun is rising, and at the same time the following Monday morning, the sun has already been up for an hour."
Culver added that having a watch during the fall and spring is crucial because you can't rely on the sun to figure out what time it is.
"Most people up here say we have two seasons: winter and summer," Culver said. "Spring and fall are very short and feel like they last only a week or two."
"In the summer, Alaskans like to have blackout curtains and sleeping masks," Drewitz said. "They help keep the room dark." The only problem is, since indoor temperatures can get so warm in the summer, you need some airflow from the outdoors to make it more bearable if you don't have air conditioning.How do people cope with winter in Alaska? ›
Try snowshoeing, the different types of skiing, ice skating, hockey, snowboarding, ice climbing, curling, or just walking in the woods. Exercise will show you how to survive an Alaskan winter.How many hours of darkness does Alaska have in summer? ›
With 24-hour daylight during the summer months and 24-hour darkness during the winter, many people find Alaska to be a strange and mysterious place. Here are some debunked myths about the unusual daylight patterns of Alaska.Why does Alaska have so much daylight in the summer? ›
Located near the top half of the northern hemisphere, Alaska is subject to long summer days the area faces towards the sun. As the Earth continues to rotate, the northern hemisphere, specifically Alaska, remains facing the sun, creating nearly 24-hours of daylight.Why does it not get dark in Alaska in summer? ›
Around June 21st, the north pole is pointed toward the sun, so as the earth rotates on its axis, the sun appears to move in a circle in the sky without falling below the horizon. The lowest latitude at which this happens is the Arctic Circle.How do Alaskans deal with darkness? ›
"In the summer, Alaskans like to have blackout curtains and sleeping masks," Drewitz said. "They help keep the room dark." The only problem is, since indoor temperatures can get so warm in the summer, you need some airflow from the outdoors to make it more bearable if you don't have air conditioning.How many hours of daylight does Alaska get in the winter? ›
In the winter, Anchorage receives more hours of daylight than most other parts of the state, making it one of the brighter places to enjoy iconic seasonal activities from skiing to dog sledding. Even the shortest day of the year brings nearly 5.5 hours of daylight.How many months a year does Alaska stay dark? ›
The town of Utqiaġvik, Alaska — the northernmost town in the US — experiences a polar night every year, beginning in mid-November and ending in mid-January. That means that once the sun sets in November, residents won't see daylight for two months.How long does it not get dark in Alaska? ›
For those two hours between sunrise and sunset, it's basically dusk or dawn because it never actually gets dark. This all-day daylight occurs from May 17 through July 27 in Fairbanks.What months does Alaska stay dark? ›
Alaska is not actually dark for six months of the year, even in our northern cities. The entire state experiences varying hours of sunlight and darkness all year long. The long, dark hours of the winter season are due to Alaska's location on the globe.
Places in the world with the most daylight hours
According to the World Meteorological Organization, Yuma (Arizona) is the sunniest place on earth. It has a total of 11 hours of sunlight in winter and up to 13 in summer. This means Yuma experiences an average of 4,015 hours of sunshine per year.
The earth is rotating at a tilted axis relative to the sun, and during the summer months, the North Pole is angled towards our star. That's why, for several weeks, the sun never sets above the Arctic Circle. Svalbard is the place in Norway where the midnight sun occurs for the longest period.How warm does it get in Alaska? ›
Summer In Alaska
By July, daytime temperatures in the Interior can average in the 70° F range—although it has been known to reach well into the 90s—while temperatures in the coastal areas and higher elevations rarely get above 65° F.
So no, there is not 6 months of daylight nor darkness its just a long period of time of darkness which made people think it was 6 months but really it is just 67 days.Why is it dark all day in Alaska? ›
As our planet travels around the sun, it's tilted at about 23.5 degrees. This is the reason we experience an unequal amount of sunlight in the northern vs. the southern hemispheres.How cold are summer nights in Alaska? ›
Summer in Alaska
Summer temperatures in Alaska range from 60 to 80 degrees, but can drop down to 50 degrees in the evenings.
|Current Time:||Jun 2, 2023 at 10:01:09 am|
|Sunrise Today:||4:33 am↑ 35° Northeast|
|Sunset Today:||11:23 pm↑ 325° Northwest|
|Moonset Today:||3:47 am↑ 214° Southwest|
|Daylight Hours:||18 hours, 51 minutes (+3m 21s)|
Cities in the northern part of the state receive upwards of 18 hours of sunlight each day. In fact, parts of Alaska receive more sunlight each year than any other state. Barrow residents get to enjoy the midnight sun all summer, with more than 80 straight days of abundant daylight.What is the dark period in Alaska called? ›
As the Northern Hemisphere tilts away from the sun in the winter months, communities close to the North Pole experience a phenomenon known as polar night: a period of uninterrupted darkness. In Utqiagvik, this lasts for approximately two months of the year.What is the shortest day in Alaska? ›
The December solstice (winter solstice) in Anchorage is at 6:27 pm on Thursday, December 21, 2023. In terms of daylight, this day is 13 hours, 54 minutes shorter than the June solstice. In most locations north of the equator, the shortest day of the year is around this date.
However, if you prefer warmer weather adventures, then visiting Alaska in July will suit you best. It's the hottest month of the year, with a daily average temperature that sits around 67 °F (19.4 °C). June and August also boast summer weather, but the temperatures tend to fluctuate a bit more.What month is 24 hour daylight in Alaska? ›
Fairbanks has long been known as “the Land of the Midnight Sun.” During the Midnight Sun Season which runs from April 22 to August 20 the sun never seems to set. Wake up in the middle of the night to find the sun shining brightly, people out biking and gardening and walking the dog.How many hours of daylight does Alaska get in July? ›
Alaska Weather in July:
Coastal temperature in Alaska in July: 50-65 degrees & 18 hours of daylight.
Antarctica has six months of daylight in its summer and six months of darkness in its winter. The seasons are caused by the tilt of Earth's axis in relation to the sun. The direction of the tilt never changes.What part of the world stays dark for 6 months? ›
In the heart of Antarctica, winter is one long night that lasts six months.What is the longest day in Alaska? ›
The June solstice (summer solstice) in Anchorage is at 6:57 am on Wednesday, June 21, 2023. In terms of daylight, this day is 13 hours, 54 minutes longer than the December solstice. In most locations north of the equator, the longest day of the year is around this date.How cold does Alaska get? ›
Winter temperatures in Alaska range from 0°F / -18°C to -30°F / -35°C from November to March. Finally, while it can rain throughout Alaska's summer, May is often the driest month in Alaska, and September is typically the wettest.Can you drive a car to Alaska? ›
You can drive to Alaska from anywhere in the United States except Hawaii. From the majority of USA, you need to take the Alaska Highway from Dawson Creek in British Columbia except California, Oregon and Washington State where the Dease Lake Highway is a better route to Yukon.Which part of Alaska stays dark? ›
“If you live above the Arctic Circle, there will be a day when the sun sets for the rest of winter. The good news? It will return and then during the summer when it won't set for days.” Darkness lays over Utqiagvik, a constant sight during the town's 65-day polar night.Where does it stay dark all day? ›
The darkest time of year at the North Pole is the Winter Solstice, approximately December 21. There has been no sunlight or even twilight since early October. The darkness lasts until the beginning of dawn in early March.
Norway. Norway, situated in the Arctic Circle, is called the Land of the Midnight Sun, where from May to late July, the sun actually never sets. This means that for around a period of 76 days, the sun never goes down.Which state has no night time? ›
Alaska. This is the country where sun never sets from late May to late July. Beautiful and breathtaking, the country is in darkness in the harsh months of winter. Known for its spectacular glaciers and snow-capped mountains; you can go hiking or sightseeing.What state has the most sunshine in a year? ›
Across the globe, Norway is known as the land of the midnight sun. For an extensive period of almost three months, the country experiences broad daylight. In fact, the sun tends to shine too glaringly around this time and the night is shrunk down to a span of 4 to 5 hours.Which country sun rises first? ›
Located just to the west of the International Date Line, the Republic of Kiribati is one of the first places on earth to see the first rays of the rising sun.Where the sun never rises? ›
North of the Arctic Circle, periods of constant sunshine last for up to six months of the year at the North Pole. The opposite is also true for parts of the year, though. Above the Arctic Circle, the sun never rises on the day of the winter solstice (usually around December 21).Is there a place on earth that is always dark? ›
Polar night is a phenomenon in the northernmost and southernmost regions of Earth where night lasts for more than 24 hours. This occurs only inside the polar circles.Is it expensive to live in Alaska? ›
The cost of living in Alaska is 29% higher than the national average. Housing is 18% higher than the national average, while utilities are 36% higher. When it comes to basic necessities such as food and clothing, groceries are around 30% higher than in the rest of the country, while clothing costs 30% higher.What is the coldest month in Alaska? ›
In general, however, the climate is bearable, with an average in January (the coldest month) of 14° F.Where is the darkest place in Alaska? ›
If the life of a night owl is unappealing for the people of Utqiagvik, they can always look toward the summer when the opposite occurrence, known as a midnight sun or polar day, causes 24 hours of daylight.
Although the daytime length at the Equator remains 12 hours in all seasons, the duration at all other latitudes varies with the seasons. During the winter, daytime lasts shorter than 12 hours; during the summer, it lasts longer than 12 hours.Why is it dark in Alaska for 2 months? ›
The reason the sun does not set in Alaska for more than 2 months is because of Earth's axial tilt. The axial tilt causes the seasons and determines when places like Alaska are exposed to the sun.Where does it stay dark for 30 days? ›
Within the ring of the Arctic Circle is a phenomenon that defies all sense of time – months go by where the sun never rises and the night reigns supreme for week after week. This is the polar night.Is Alaska always freezing? ›
Many believe that Alaska only has two weather conditions: cold and freezing cold. Contrary to popular beliefs, Alaska is pretty warm in the winter season (May to September). Temperatures can warm-up from 70°F (21.1°C) to 100°F (37.8°C), depending on the location.Is it hard to sleep in Alaska in the summer? ›
Alaskan Summer Makes it Hard to Sleep
And it's not just the midnight sun, or lower down in Alaska the “twilight night.” Alaskan summers can make it hard for many Alaskan's to sleep because: Sunlight or light all night long. Doing shift work during summer (fishing, construction, etc.)
Cloaked in blankets of white snow and days of little sunshine, winter is a long season in Alaska. In the two most populated areas, snow generally is present from late October through early April. Alaska's second largest town, Fairbanks, will reach temperatures of -50 Fahrenheit nearly every winter.Is Alaska busy in the summer? ›
The primary tourist season in Alaska is from May 15th to September 15th. Alaska's tourist attractions and summer excursions mostly do not open before May 15, and almost all are closed by September 15. The most popular time to visit is typically between mid-June and mid-August.How to live in Alaska in the winter? ›
- Insulate Your Propane. Propane is among the most common cooking fuels for dry cabin dwellers. ...
- Store Enough Water. ...
- Store Enough Food. ...
- Insulate Your Dry Cabin. ...
- Maintain Your Wood-Burning Stove. ...
- Clean Your Roof and Gutters.
You need a strong heater that warms the entire home, not just one room. Central heat is better and you should test it thoroughly before the winter arrives. A solid fireplace is also ideal. Just be sure you keep your chimney clean and lots of extra wood stacked in a dry area.How do you deal with seasonal depression in Alaska? ›
One of the most effective ways to combat SAD is to invest in a light that replicates daylight. Known as “SAD lamps,” these extra-bright tools give your body the bright light of the natural sun and can significantly impact your mood.
Their winter entrances slant upward, emerging through the floor. Air warmed by human bodies cannot escape, so it collects cozily under the thick, domed roof. Even when Arctic blizzards are blowing overhead, the body-heated igloo often keeps so warm that the Eskimos snug inside need wear no clothes at all.What do you need to survive in Alaska? ›
Pack a survival kit – Carry basic tools including a map, compass, extra food and water, a headlamp or torch, rain gear, first aid kit, whistle, knife, matches/lighter and a fire starter. Also consider purchasing a personal locator beacon (PLB) or a mobile phone.How is Alaska in summer? ›
Landscapes in this area include temperate coastal rainforests, as well as high mountain ranges, and climate varies accordingly. Plan for summer temperatures to hover in the mid-60s Fahrenheit (just under 20 °C). But, if you plan on exploring higher elevations prepare yourself for cooler weather and even snow.How do Eskimos stay warm at night? ›
They cover their platforms with branches and piles of sealskins and blankets to create a soft, cosy nest. These materials provide good insulation to keep heat next to their skin and they share sleeping spaces to take advantage of additional body heat.How do people in Alaska keep their pipes from freezing? ›
Keep Your Pipes Warm
To keep your pipes from bursting, you might consider wrapping the pipes in the cold parts of your house in insulation, and opening kitchen and bathroom cabinets to allow warm air to circulate around the pipes.
|State||Expected Monthly Natural Gas Heating Bill (2022-2023)|
Without the benefit of early morning light to cue a stop in melatonin secretion, you may feel tired. In Alaska where winter darkness are either especially long or a permanent fixture in the sky, you lack the environmental clues to naturally start and stop melatonin production.What is the best state to live in for seasonal depression? ›
The sunny three: Arizona, Florida and Hawaii.
These three states account for seven of the ten cities with the sunniest winters. If you're feeling the effects of S.A.D., you might want to spend a week in one of these three places.
Seasonal depression in each state
Alaska, Vermont and New Hampshire are the states most affected by seasonal depression. Florida, Hawaii and Arizona are the states least affected by seasonal depression.
A very special kind of parka is made and worn by Inuit mothers. Amautis are parkas that can carry babies and keep them warm, while freeing up a mother's hands. The baby is carried in a pocket, amaut, in the Inuit language, made below the hood.
It turns out that they, along with Native Americans and some Siberians, possess a unique gene variant associated with cold tolerance, according to a paper published in Molecular Biology and Evolution.Do Eskimos get colds? ›
Eskimos are very susceptible to upper respiratory infections on contact with the outside world. Ordinary bacterial infections rarely occur.