Winter 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.