Why does 80° feel hotter in Alaska?
Tuesday saw a record-setting high temperature of 80°. Well, if you've ever spent time Outside in the summer, you know 80° in Alaska feels way hotter than 80° in Miami.
So, why is that? Well, if you ask Brian Brettschneider, climate scientist here in Anchorage, the short answer deals with the large input of solar radiation the high latitudes receive during the warm months and the low angle at which this energy is absorbed.
In a recent interview with Forbes, Brettschneider explained that the above-mentioned factors are so significant, that they can make temperatures feel on average 5 to 10 degrees warmer than the actual air temperature. Latitudes north of the Arctic Circle can experience the sensation temperatures are 10-20 degrees warmer. The sun never rises more than 47 degrees above the horizon inside of 66°33’47.2” north latitude.
Why does this matter? When the sun rises directly overhead, its rays have a much smaller target at which they can be absorbed by our bodies compared to when their rays are at a lower angle.
For example, in Anchorage this Fourth of July, the sun will rise 52 degrees above the horizon to its peak altitude (or median) at 2:04 p.m. This angle is much lower than what those in Miami, Florida will experience on the same day, where the sun will rise just three degrees shy of directly overhead, (or 90 degrees) at 1:25 p.m.
Now take into account that the length of day is longer in the northern latitudes. Which means not only our bodies but our homes and vehicles broadly absorb the solar energy at longer duration than our counterparts in Miami.
Stay cool during the heatwave.
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