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Alaska Winter Photos

Close up of ice on Portage River

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Snowflake Photos
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Alaska Winter Photos

With almost 9 months of "winter" in Alaska, you can bet that Alaskans know a lot about the season. At Alaska Stock Images, you will find a wide variety of Alaska photos including the most beautiful and harsh Alaska Winter Photos. To find more pictures of Alaska or photos of winter, visit our search page.

Snowflake photos
Formation of Snowflakes
Alaska consists of four "climate zones." The maritime climate zone encompasses the Southeast of Alaska, Northern Golf Coast, and the Aleutian Chain. Winter temperatures in these areas are mild - relatively warm in the winter. Precipitation also tends to be heavy - whether it is from snow or rain. Another zone is the Transition Zone between the coastal mountains and the Alaska Range which includes Anchorage and the Matanuska Valley, and the west coast from Bristol Bay to Point Hope. Winter Temperatures can be colder but not extreme and snow accumulation is generally less than the Maritime Zone. The Continental Climate Zone includes the majority of Alaska except the coastal fringes and the Arctic Slope. This zone has extreme winter temperatures and low precipitation. The cloud cover is less than any other zone, which contributes to more cooling during the long nights of winter. Snow is light because air masses that have moisture generally lose it while moving over the mountains. The fourth zone is the Arctic which is north of the Brooks Range. This zone produces cold winters and desert like precipitation. Cold prevailing winds from the northeast ice pack are common. Regardless of what zone you find yourself in, snow is still prevalent and winter is the all-time defining season of Alaska.
Close up of snowflake
No two alike....

Snowflakes appear in many shapes, but all have six sides created by the electrical bonds between water molecules. When snow forms at temperatures near freezing, the flakes look like tiny stop signs. Six-sided needles appear at temperatures a few degrees below freezing. Between 21 degrees F and 14 degrees F, snowflakes are hollow, hexagonal columns. Lacey stars with six points form at about 5 degrees. It takes about one million snow crystals to coat a two-foot square area with 10 inches of snow. Of the billions that fall in a good storm, it's a good bet that each is unique. For snowflakes to be identical, they would have to be born of the same particles, formed at the same altitude, pass through air of identical temperature and humidity, and bump the same number of crystals on the float to the ground.

As far as winter records are concerned, Alaska holds a fair share. However, not all records belong to Alaska, but it is a common belief that were all areas to be gauged (such as remote parts of Malaspina Glacier) more records would be broken by Alaska's winters. In the 1950s and 1960s, a weather station in Thompson Pass north of Valdez recorded these numbers: sixty-two inches of snow in one 1955 day (record for most snow fall in 24 hrs); twenty-nine feet of snow in the month of February, 1964; and a total snowfall of more than 80 feet in the winter of 1952-1953.

Thompson Pass Photos
Thompson Pass in winter
Of course along with winter and snow comes the cold. The interior parts of Alaska (generally the Continental Zone and Arctic Zone) can see temperatures anywhere from minus 40 degrees to minus 70 degrees Fahrenheit. At these temperatures, automobile fan belts start breaking, motor oil turns to putty, plastic get brittle, groceries freeze on the way home from the store, and tires become "square" as the air inside compresses and tires flatten. One joke by old-timers is that "it got so cold that my whiskey froze." Of course you would have to know that whiskey freezes at –55 degrees in order to get the joke!
extreme winter temperatures
Interior extreme temperatures
One of Mother Nature's tricks, though, is to throw in some wind and change things all around. Almost without fail, Alaska's winters include at least one Chinook Wind. This is an unseasonably warm and strong wind that can cause a thaw in the middle of winter. Deep snow that has taken weeks to accumulate can melt in a matter of hours. Winds have been known to howl in gusts of excess of 100 mph.

Because of the dramatic change in daylight over the course of a year, Alaskans pay close attention to the seasonal equinoxes. Perhaps one of the most anticipated days is December 21st. Although this is the shortest day of the year and least amount of daylight, it also signifies the shift from losing daylight to gaining daylight. Just a few seconds at first, its enough for Alaskans to know that summer will return.

Winter weather photos
unpredictable winds

Books of Interest:

The Long Dark: An Alaska Winter's Tale (Humorous Historical Fiction Set in Alaska)

This Place Is Cold (Imagine Living Here) - (Review from This is one of the best written, most comprehensive and accurate children's books about Alaska that I have found. The illustrations are well drawn and clever. This book holds the interest of young children and I would recommend it as a great addition to any young child's library.

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