UTQIAGVIK, Alaska - Alaska is sometimes called the "Land of the Midnight Sun," but this time of year its northern reaches could be called the land of the 1 a.m. sun, and the 2 a.m. sun. 3 a.m. too …
The National Weather Service office in Fairbanks noted that the sun rose Monday morning in Utqiagvik, Alaska (formerly known as Barrow) at 2:53 a.m. Alaska Daylight Time, and now won't dip below the horizon for 84 days! Darkness won't return to the north slope until Aug. 2.
All areas that sit above the Arctic Circle at 66 degrees North Latitude will have at least some time with 24-hour daylight around the summer solstice, and Utqiagvik is perched just north of 71 degrees N.
Of course, the opposite happens in the winter when the sun sets on Nov. 18 and doesn't return to the sky until Jan. 22, according to timeanddate.com.
To get from one extreme to the other, you of course need some fast transitional dates. During the time around the spring equinox when the rate of daylight change is its greatest, North Slope residents are gaining about 10 minutes of sunshine A DAY. So each week brings more than an hour of extra daylight. It's like Daylight Savings Time every weekend without fiddling with the clocks! (Though they do observe DST up there, with minimal effect.)
The Seattle area, being among the most northern spots in the Lower 48, enjoys long summer days too. Though at least we aren't quite in as dire need of the blackout curtains that are a staple of the Arctic. Downtown ends up just shy of 16 hours of official daylight during our summer peak, with twilight lasting from 4:30 a.m. through just before 10 p.m.
What about winter? I understand that posting the winter daylight totals (or lack thereof) for Seattle may be a bit jarring for those who crave the sunlight, so I'm giving you this paragraph as a spoiler alert. Skip the next paragraph if you just want to live in blissful ignorance.
Officially around the winter solstice, Seattle's sunrise isn't until just before 8 a.m., with sunset in the books at around 4:20 p.m. for just under 8.5 hours of daylight. Though given the common thick overcast days that blot out the sun for much off the winter season, there are many times it feels like the sun sets around 3 p.m., if not 2:30. It also means no matter when you work, you're likely commuting in darkness on at least one end.
(Sun lovers, you can start reading again)
Seattle's transition from winter to summer daylight is a little less than half as dramatic as it is in northern Alaska, with daily gains of about 3-4 minutes of sunshine in the spring (and a similar loss in the autumn).
The rate of daylight increase is slowing as we near the solstice but Seattle still has about another hour of daylight to gain!
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