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Barrow, Alaska (AKA Utqiaġvik)

Barrow, Alaska USA

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“land of the midnight sun!”

We all know that in the winter, night falls earlier than it does in the summer, but imagine a place where "day" and "night" aren't times of the day, but seasons. That's exactly what it's like living in the small city of Barrow, Alaska. It's hard to imagine something as basic as "night" and "day" being totally different to someone else, but Barrow is a pretty unique place. The tiny town is America's Northernmost city, and lies within the Arctic circle, only 1,300 miles South of the North Pole. Due to its extreme location, Barrow is one of the few cities in the world to experience a phenomenon known as "polar night" (which, incidentally, sounds like a rad name for an indie band). Basically, Barrow residents don't see the sun for 60 consecutive days each year-- it's night for 1,440 hours straight. Imagine being afraid of the dark and living in Barrow! They do experience twilight each day, though. The length of twilight decreases until the winter solstice, when it only lasts for a mere 3 hours. Then, after that, twilight lasts longer and longer each day until the sun finally peeks over the horizon around January 22 or 23. Conversely, in addition to polar night, Barrow also experiences midnight sun (yet another solid potential indie band name). From May 11 or 12, the sun remains in the sky until July 31 or August 1. That's about 80 days of nonstop daylight... but if you're looking for eternal summer, you won't find it here. Even with midnight sun, the town's warmest month, July, only reaches an average high of 47 degrees Farenheit. It's also one of the cloudiest cities in the US, with overcast days accounting for more than half of the year. The fact that there are no roads connecting Barrow to the rest of Alaska makes things even more interesting-- in order to travel anywhere else, you'll have to hop on a plane. If all of this sounds like a recipe for a horror movie, you're not the only one. Horror comic book mini series and subsequent film adaptation 30 Days of Night was based on the idea of vampires taking advantage of polar night and the isolation of the town to massacre and feed upon the citizens... but don't worry, it's only fiction! Mostly, at least. But why live in such a harsh environment? Someone posed that very question on a Quora thread, and one former Barrow resident replied, saying: "It's an adventure that payed me very well and enabled me to meet new people and learn and do new things and see a way of life that I could never have imagined. I saw polar bears, Northern Lights, walked outside in -65 temps and lived through four years of Midnight Sun and Polar Night. I will always remember my time there with fondness." Barrow is the largest city of the North Slope Borough in the U.S. state of Alaska and is located above the Arctic Circle. It is the 11th northernmost public community in the world and is the northernmost city in the United States of America, with nearby Point Barrow being the nation's northernmost point.Barrow has the lowest average temperatures of cities in Alaska. Although it is rare for Barrow to record the lowest temperatures statewide during cold waves, extremely low wind chill and "white out" conditions from blowing snow are very common. Temperatures remain below freezing from early October through late May.The sun sets on November 18 or 19, and it remains below the horizon for about 65 days. This creates a polar night that lasts until the Sun returns to lightly touch the horizon (due to the refraction and scattering of the atmosphere) by January 22 or January 23. The sun then rises again completely over the horizon by the 27th or 28th of January. During the first half of the polar night, there is a decreasing amount of twilight each day, and on the winter solstice (around December 21 or December 22), civil twilight in Barrow lasts for a mere 3 hours Beginning around May 11 or 12, the sun remains above the horizon the entire day, and the phenomenon known as the midnight sun is observed. The sun does not set for about 80 days, until around July 31 or August 1. In June, the average temperature rises above freezing, to 35.7 °F (2.1 °C), and average daily temperatures remain above freezing until mid- or late September. UPDATE: As of 2017, the town's name will be changed to Utqiaġvik.

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Reviewed by
Anna Hider

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September 30, 2015
Rated 4.0

The midnight sun and polar night are such unique phenomena that you can't really find anywhere else. It's interesting to see how things work in a town where it's night for 60 days straight and day for 80 days straight. And there are some days of perpetual sunset/sunrise that are super pretty!

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Barrow, Alaska (AKA Utqiaġvik)

Barrow, Alaska


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