Arctic Region


The Alaskan Arctic region is really the Arctic drainage, and includes all stations north of the Brooks Range. Near the west coast, the boundary curves southward to include those areas draining into the Arctic Ocean north of Bering Strait. Thus the Arctic climate division includes some areas south of the Arctic Circle (northern Seward Peninsula), while some areas that are technically Arctic (e.g., Bettles) are in the Interior division.


Most of the Arctic division is tundra, often wet tundra, though the mean annual precipitation is generally of the order of 10 inches or less. Permafrost is continuous except for exceptional local anomalies such as deep lakes. Trees do exist, but are confined to alder thickets in sheltered valleys on the north side of the Brooks Range and spruce-birch woodland inland from Kotzebue. Climatic stations are sparse, and with very few exceptions located along the coast. None of these exceptions have long enough or complete enough summaries to be included in this listing, but Umiat and Anaktuvik Pass should probably be given some attention if the climate of the whole region is considered. The difference between the inland and coastal climates is clearly demonstrated by the fact that on rare summer days Umiat has been known to record the highest temperature in the state. Roads are essentially limited to local streets in the larger towns and the Dalton Highway, the gravel haul road that serves the Alaska Pipeline.

Of the three stations listed here for the Arctic Division, Barter Island has the shortest and poorest record, though its loss as an upper air station is still to be deplored. Barrow and Kotzebue both have long and relatively complete records, though both are located right on the coast and are potentially subject to major station move errors.

Comparison of the three stations shows that the two north coast stations are significantly cooler than Kotzebue, which is located on the Chuckchi coast just north of the Seward Peninsula.




A regional temperature chart was constructed by using the time period for which data were available for all three stations to construct normal mean annual temperatures for each of the three stations. Anomaly series were then constructed for each station, and the three anomaly series were averaged. This average anomaly series in turn was added to the three-station mean from the overlap period, giving a regional mean corrected as far as possible for the effect of dropping and adding stations. Note that this regional temperature series is still based entirely on coastal stations, and that systematic errors from station moves may still be present.
Individual years in the plot are shown as red circles; the blue line is a binomially weighted 5-year running mean.




Note that none of the 3 Arctic stations discussed here has ever recorded a mean annual temperature above freezing or even near freezing.


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Geophysical InstituteInt'l Arctic Research Center