America’s Northernmost Town, Utqiagvik, Alaska, Will See Its First Sunrise in More Than Two Months Tuesday

The sun will finally rise for the first time this year on Tuesday in America’s northernmost town, Utqiagvik, Alaska, after a roughly two-month stretch without seeing the sun north of the Arctic Circle.

Tuesday afternoon, the sun will peek above the horizon along Alaska’s North Slope around 1:09 p.m. AKST, 66 days after it set for the long polar night on Nov. 18.

The sun will only make a brief appearance, setting at 2:09 p.m. in Utqiagvik, just an hour after rising. Alaska Standard Time is four hours earlier than Eastern Standard Time.

Unfortunately, this year, it will be difficult to see this first sunrise. The forecast is for blowing snow, blustery conditions and cloudy skies. Wind chills could drop to as low as 50 below zero.

Located at over 71 degrees north latitude, roughly 320 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 1,300 miles south of the North Pole, Utqiagvik is just coming out of its polar night, a roughly two-month period in which the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon.

Due to the Earth’s tilt from its vertical axis, the sun’s most direct rays reach south of the equator from fall through spring. From mid-November into late January, the sun doesn’t rise north of the Arctic Circle.

This is due to the Earth’s tilt. During the polar night, the sun’s most direct rays shine over areas between the equator and Tropic of Capricorn, never directly reaching locations above the Arctic Circle.

There isn’t two months of continuous darkness, though, a common misconception.

Civil twilight, defined as the point when the sun is 6 degrees below the horizon, allows sufficient light to see objects outside.

On Nov. 18, this period lasted for a little more than six hours.

This civil twilight period shrank to just under three hours at the winter solstice (Dec. 21) but is now back to more than six hours on Jan. 23, from 10:35 a.m. to 4:43 p.m. local time.

More than half the days each year on average are considered cloudy in Utqiagvik, according to data from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

Areas north of the Arctic Circle also experience midnight sun in late spring and summer. From May 11 to Jul. 31, the sun never dips below the horizon.

The return of sunlight to Utqiagvik in late January typically doesn’t bring much warmth. The average low on Jan. 23 is 18 degrees below zero, and the average high is just 6 degrees below zero.


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