Saturday, October 4, 2014

Is it really dark all the time in the winter? {hello, Alaska}


When talking to people from out-of-state, the question I get most often is, "Is it really light all the time in the summer, and dark all the time in the winter?

The answer is YES and NO.

As we talked about yesterday, this state is gigantic. So it's impossible to make a blanket statement about anything really. In some parts of the state and for a period of weeks, it's light all the time in the summer. The same goes for the winter darkness. In some parts it's dark continually for weeks at a time, and some parts the sun rises for several hours each day.

Here's a little chart to help make this a little clearer. Starting from the furthest south to the furthest north, let's look at how much daylight each town/city gets on Winter Solstice (December 21st), which is the shortest day of the year.

After this day, we start gaining daylight each day (insert much rejoicing) until we hit Summer Solstice (June 21st), the longest day of the year. On this day in our area and further north, the sun doesn't set. It's amazing. Beautiful. And so much fun.

11 pm on a summer night in June. Stunning.
 
Remember poor Barrow who is denied the sun for 67 whole days in the winter? Well, redemption comes in the summer, when the sun goes 80 whole days without setting. But the average temperature still hovers around 45 degrees. Brrr. The sun doesn't hang out high enough in the sky (or barely at all) to warm the earth to the degree most are accustomed to in the summer months.

Summer is just glorious. Late night barbeques and campfires are so fun. Having a full evening of daylight after all are asleep is my favorite. I love sitting by a window that is wide open reading or doing some work by the light of the midnight sun. I hope you can experience this someday.

I've yet to hear someone complain about the glorious everlasting daylight in the summer. Though we do have to adjust.

I have four letters for you. F-O-I-L. Yes, foil. People use foil to line their windows as a blackout mechanism. I say people, because we do not. We use honest-to-goodness accordion blackout shades that you buy for that purpose. They're awesome. In earlier years, we used the roller shades. Those worked great too. But too many times some curious george was curious enough to pull the entire roll out and rip it off entirely. Accordian blackout shades that rise with the push of a button rock my little world.

I had to laugh tonight though. We were driving by a really fancy house up on a hill with a great view that had foil in its windows, and I cringed. Ooh. If you can afford a fancy schmancy house and you paid for a fancy schmancy view of the mountains, maybe you should pay twenty bucks for a shade so you can actually enjoy said view. Just a thought. Maybe I'll deliver one as a gift to their front porch. Or not.

Okay, on to the darkness of winter.

It's hard. I'm not gonna lie. It can be really tough. It's hard to welcome Jeremy home and eat dinner in the pitch dark after we've both had a really long day. Depression and suicide are rates super high here. Happy lights (also know as full spectrum lights) are sold in grocery stores and pharmacies around here for those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder and need that extra light.

I suffered from severely low vitamin D for years from lack of sunlight and didn't know it. I now take a super high dose of vitamin D-3 each week to keep my numbers in the right place. Crazy stuff. But I feel so much better. I wish the Doc would have prescribed Hawaii. I would have taken a mid-winter jaunt to Maui in a flash.

On a serious note, it can be hard to cope with the dark and the cold combined with the kids.

We feel cooped up when the temps are too low to play outside and the darkness makes it not as fun. What temperature makes it too cold to play outside you ask? Well, we usually stay inside when it dips below zero. Last winter we played out in the yard at -10, but we didn't last long. When the kids get those pinkish oh-dear-it-looks-like-frostbite-is-beginning patches on their cheeks, we know we've crossed a line.


Alaska has SO many benefits, which we'll talk about soon. The sunsets in winter are beyond beautiful. The sun's reflection off the ice crystals and snow is beyond belief. And here are many, many fun things to do in the winter.

The dark and light situation sure makes Alaska unique. I love that about us.

As we head into the darkest part of the year, there's a bright side: it's only 78 more days until we start gaining some daylight each day. I'm already celebrating.

I hope you'll come back tomorrow for the 5th day of this 31 day series!




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10 comments:

  1. I am so surprised to learn that our thinking is so similar when it comes to this subject! Both Latvians and Swedes also obsess about solstices, we talk about the light and darkness all the time :). Many, many people count days to the winter solstice and say "in just x days, it will start getting lighter again". Very neat :).

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    1. It's interesting for me to hear other people think this way too!

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  2. I just checked, according to my old AAA map, there is an airport in Barrow? So people actually live there, with over 2 months of complete darkness? More info, if possible, please! :)
    Also checked, in Latvia, on Dec. 21, we'll have roughly the same daylight hours as Juneau, neato! :)
    Thank you very much for this series, I am learning something every day!

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    1. Yes! Around 4,300 people live in Barrow! Also, the oil industry is huge up there. Thousands of men and women work up there in Prudhoe Bay (my brother-in-law included), which is a different area, but still up in the darkest parts of Alaska. It's crazy stuff!!

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    2. Loved the chart with the differences in sunlight at each location. We talk about it getting dark here too and we aren't that far north - Washington. Of course we also talk about the rain, too. Loving your series.

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    3. Thanks!! I grew up my first 8 years in Washington... I know that rain you speak of. ;)

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  3. Happy Lights, Fermented Cod Liver Oil and being active and healthy are the ingredients for a good winter :)

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  4. When researching Vitamin D after moving to AK, I learned that...ready for this?...whale blubber is high in vitamin D. Awesome, right?! I take supplements or I'd be a lunatic in the winter.

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    1. For real? So are whale blubber supplements ... a thing? Maybe I should write a post. Ha.

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