|Information courtesy of the
National Climate Data Center
|Fairbanks is located in the Tanana Valley, in the interior of Alaska. It has a distinctly continental climate, with large variation of temperature from winter to summer.
The climate in Fairbanks is conditioned mainly by the response of the land mass to large changes in solar heat received by the area during the year. The sun is above the horizon from 18 to 21 hours during June and July. During this period, daily average maximum temperatures reach the lower 70s. Temperatures of 80 degrees or higher occur on about 10 days each summer. In contrast, from November to early March, when the period of daylight ranges from 10 to less than 4 hours per day, the lowest temperature readings normally fall below zero quite regularly. Low temperatures of -40 degrees or colder occur each winter. The range of temperatures in summer is comparatively low, from the lower 30s to the mid 90s. In winter, this range is larger, from about 65 below to 45 degrees above. This large winter range of temperature reflects the great difference between frigid weather associated with dry northerly airflow from the Arctic to mild temperatures associated with southerly airflow from the Gulf of Alaska, accompanied by chinook winds off the Alaska Range, 80 miles to the south of Fairbanks.
Snow cover is persistent in Fairbanks, without interruption, from October through April. Snowfalls of 4 inches or more in a day occur only three times during winter. Blizzard conditions are almost never seen, as winds in Fairbanks are above 20 miles an hour less than 1 percent of the time. Precipitation normally reaches a minimum in spring, and a maximum in August, when rainfall is common. During summer, thunderstorms occur in Fairbanks on an average of about eight days. Thunderstorms are about three times more frequent over the hills to the north and east of Fairbanks. Damaging hail or wind rarely accompany thunderstorms around Fairbanks. There are rolling hills reaching elevations up to 2,000 feet above Fairbanks to the north and east of the city. During winter, the uplands are often warmer than Fairbanks, as cold air settles into the valley. In some months, temperatures in the uplands will average more than 10 degrees warmer than Fairbanks. During summer, the uplands are a few degrees cooler than the city. Precipitation in the uplands around Fairbanks is heavier than it is in the city by roughly 20 to 50 percent. Fairbanks exhibits an urban heat island, especially during winter. Low lying areas nearby, such as the community of North Pole, are often colder than the city, sometimes by as much as 15 degrees.
During winter, with temperatures of -20 degrees or colder, ice fog frequently forms in the city. Cold snaps accompanied by ice fog generally last about a week, but can last three weeks in unusual situations. The fog is almost always less than 300 feet deep, so that the surrounding uplands are usually in the clear, with warmer temperatures. Visibility in the ice fog is sometimes quite low, and this can hinder aircraft operations for as much as a day in severe cases. Aside from the low visibility in winter ice fog, flying weather in Fairbanks is quite favorable, especially from February through May, when crystal clear weather is common and the length of daylight is rapidly increasing.
Hardy vegetables and grains grow luxuriantly. Freezing of local rivers normally begins in the first week of October. The date when ice will normally support a persons weight is October 27. Rivers remain frozen and safe for travel until early April. Breakup of the river ice usually occurs in the first week of May.