Lower 48 mercury drops below Anchorage's in cold snap
Although parts of Alaska experience winter temperatures that would freeze a Floridian instantly, a majority of the state lives in areas that are actually warmer than parts of the Lower 48 in the winter.
Between Southcentral and Southwest Alaska, a majority of Alaskans live outside the Interior and don't have to battle those sub-zero temperatures on a daily basis.
The coldest month of the year for Alaska is January. During the first month of the year, the average high temperature in Anchorage is 23 degrees, with an average low temperature of 11 degrees. While that is cold, Minneapolis typically runs a few degrees colder for the first few weeks of the year. In fact Minneapolis' high for January is 22 degrees with an overnight low of just 6 degrees. So next time you're talking to a friend back in Minnesota, remind them you're probably a bit warmer in Anchorage than they are! In January, at least.
As far as the rest of the northern states, there are plenty of days in which Anchorage is warmer than many major cities. This is because of the jet stream. When a ridge forms in the jet stream near Alaska, warmth from the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean pump into the state. When this happens, the wavy pattern of the jet typically sets up a trough over the Lower 48. That means that when our temperatures are above average, there is a good possibility that parts of the Lower 48 will be below average. Think cities like New York or Boston, sometimes even Washington, D.C.
But if it's cold you want, you don't have to venture far outside of Anchorage. The city's proximity to the coast is what keeps it so mild year-round. Alaska's second-largest city, Fairbanks, boasts some of the coldest temperatures of any city in the U.S. Students at the University of Fairbanks even have a special club for those bold enough to brave temperatures that can hit 40 below zero in their best beach attire!
On average Anchorage receives its first snowfall of the season before any other major city in the U.S. The first measurable snowfall typically happens on Oct. 16. And while that seems early, it is just one day before the Mile High City of Denver! Even Minneapolis follows close behind at Nov. 2.
When it comes to the amount of snow, Anchorage is up there but doesn't crack the top 5. Syracuse is the snowiest city of more than 100,000 people in the United States, averaging some 10 feet of snow every year! You then have to go through Erie, Pa., Rochester and Buffalo, N.Y., and Boulder, Colo. before you get to Anchorage.
Averaging about 75 inches of snow every year, Anchorage is snowy but not near as snowy as other parts of the state. In fact, Valdez is one of the snowiest places in all of the U.S. averaging some 306 inches -- or 25 feet -- of snow every year!
Next time you are talking to someone from the Lower 48 and they remind you how short the days are during the dead of winter, think of this. Each and every city in Alaska gets more daylight during the year than every single city in the Lower 48!
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