Thursday, we had the first sunrise of 2020 at Utqiagvik, Alaska – the northernmost tip of Alaska. Formerly known as Barrow, it’s a city of roughly 4,440 people that sits north of the Arctic Circle.
Utqiagvik goes through a period in winter of 65 days with the sun staying below the horizon, with only a brief period of twilight. The sun last set on Nov. 18, 2019.
In the summer, this is the land of the “midnight sun”. They get 24/7 daylight from May 10 through the end of July.
Surrounded by cold water, it never does get “warm” in Utqiagvik. The warmest month is July, with an average high temperature of 47. They get an average of 24 days a year when the temperature reaches 50. The warmest temperature ever was 79 on July 13, 1993.
Utqiagvik’s coldest month is usually February, with an average high temp. of -8F and an average low temp. of -20. The coldest reading ever recorded was -56 on Feb. 3, 1924.
It’s an “Arctic Desert” with an average of only 4.53″ of precipitation per year. That includes an average of 37.7″ of snow. The snowiest month is October and it can snow in any month, including July and August. Over the course of the year, the average high temp. is 17.2 and the average low temp. is 6.4. The Arctic Ocean is usually frozen over until late July – then refreezes again in late October. Note the frozen ocean behind the sign on an early summer day.
Here’s a street view of the city. Streets are unpaved due to the permafrost. Houses are built up on stilts so they don’t sink into the frozen ground from the heat of the house.
A sod groundcover grows there, but no trees. Surrounded on three sides by ocean and the flat landscape allows a view to the horizon on rather rare clear days. Over 50% of the days are completely overcast.
Barrow High School actually has a football team, and a blue field (like Boise State) to play on. The “Whalers” played 9 games, flying to away games, and was a very respectable 7-2 last season. Here’s a webcam view of Utqiagvik.