Summers at Eielson are splendid. The long hours of sunlight and warm weather make outdoor activities an absolute joy for residents. Temperatures average in the low 70s, although it is typical for temperatures to reach as high as 90 degrees in July. Most residents spend as much time as possible enjoying outdoor activities, including biking, fishing, hiking, boating and gardening. Summers usually start in mid-May and end in mid-August.
Eielson enjoys continuous civil twilight through the night from May 17 to July 26. This means it is bright enough to read outdoors through the entire night, and many local activities take advantage of the extra daylight. Eielson has an average of 11 days with thunderstorms during the summer. Usually these storms are weak compared to those occurring in the Lower 48. These storms typically produce only light rain with occasional gusty winds. These thunderstorms occasionally start forest fires, producing smoke and reducing visibility throughout the local valley.
Spring in Alaska is often referred to as "breakup" because snow and ice on rivers and lakes begin to melt and break up during this period. Because the ground is still frozen, water from melting snow and ice remains on the surface, making breakup a messy time of the year. Breakup usually occurs between late April and early May.
Fall brings a colorful change to Eielson as birch trees turn golden brown and ducks and geese prepare to fly south for the winter. Hunters enjoy the brisk air as they hunt waterfowl, moose, bear and other wildlife.
WWinter in Alaska runs from the first snowfall - usually in mid-September - through breakup in late April when the snow finally melts. The average winter temperature is 7 degrees below zero Fahrenheit with an average annual snowfall of 74 inches.
Temperatures can drop considerably in Alaska, with 64 degrees below zero Fahrenheit measured at Eielson Air Force Base in January 1971. Fortunately, during periods of extreme cold, wind remains light and the cold becomes more bearable.
Cold weather, however, does not keep residents from enjoying the area's available outdoor activities. Skiing, sledding, dog sledding and riding snow machines are popular winter events. With proper preparation, residents enjoy winter outdoor recreation except during extreme conditions.
When temperatures fall to 30 degrees below zero, persistent ice fog sometimes forms and can restrict visibility to less than one-eighth of a mile. Warm winter breezes, called Chinooks, can bring Alaskans occasional relief from the bitter cold. The Chinook that occurred on New Year's Eve in 1980 caused the temperature to rise from 32 degrees below zero to 42 degrees above zero in 24 hours, a temperature change of 74 degrees.
The amount of daylight between the beginning of November and the end of February ranges from 10 hours per day to less than four hours per day. A major benefit of this increased darkness is the ability to view the spectacular Aurora Borealis, or "Northern Lights," which frequent Eielson's skies on cloud-free nights between September and April.
Winterizing Your Car
Before the snow arrives there are several things you should consider doing to winterize your car.
• It is a good idea to get a tune-up and lube-oil-filter change.
• Good, gripping tires will help battle icy roads (chains are usually only needed for mountain driving and sometimes in hilly areas).
• Engine heaters are convenient and even necessary at times. The circulating block heater or a percolator pump keeps the engine block from freezing.
• An interior heater will help keep the car upholstery from cracking. • An oil pan heater will keep engine oil in a liquid state.
• A battery blanket or plate will keep the battery acid in a liquid state. The most visible feature to your vehicle once these items are installed is an electrical plug to operate all your new equipment. Probably one of the first out-of-the-ordinary things you'll see while driving around Eielson will be the head-bolt outlets. They're the gray metal posts with electrical sockets mounted on top visible in most parking lots. Base housing units have them too, although they're mounted to the side of the building. The HBOs allow you to plug your car in when it sits in the cold. People are not allowed to plug in their heaters on base until the temperature dips to 10 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, or 20 degrees for diesels.
The following items should be checked for proper operation and condition in addition to the installation of heating devices:
• lights, horn, windshield wipers and blades
• brakes, fan belts and pulleys, heater and defroster
• exhaust system (pipes, manifold and muffler), cooling system (including thermostat) and battery
• use lighter weight motor oil, transmission fluid and differential lubricants
• check your tire pressure as cold weather may make your tires appear flatter
• keep an ice scraper, blankets, food, cold-weather gear, survival candles, matches and flares in the backseat to avoid freezing in the trunk and for quick and easy access.
In the wintertime, keep a full tank of gas; an empty tank collects moisture that can freeze gas lines. Don't use the emergency brake because the brake cable can freeze.