And there is a Weather and Light Chart at the bottom of this Weather Page that tells you the facts about monthly "averages" for temperatures, hours of sunlight, inches of snow and rain in Fairbanks.
I think we can all agree, both summer weather and winter weather is pretty extreme, and honestly? winter weather is even dreadful sometimes! Temperatures and the weather are always a good conversation starter among friendly Fairbanksans and visitors alike.
The temperatures drop colder than minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit in January. Yet we have warm, mostly dry summer weather. +68 to +80 degrees Fahrenheit is the norm. I say mostly because the temperatures can drop 10 to 20 degrees just because the sun has gone behind a cloud. So, the most important fact to remember is this: you can always add a layer.
Fairbanksans have found that when we are dressed right for the conditions and temperatures, winter or summer, the weather is always perfect.
Just put on some layers so you can stop shivering and enjoy the peacefulness of the cold and dark, the snowy time of our Fairbanks life! "But," you ask, "what it is really like to live with the winter weather in Fairbanks?" Well things are much more relaxed in the winter than in the summer, and we have fun the usual winter ways: we ski, sled, go to the theater (and act in the theater!). We also read and dance, and we have fun in some unusual ways too!
For example, it is interesting to watch what minus 40 degree temperature does to liquid: try tossing a cup of hot coffee in the air and watch it turn to brown snow before it hits the ground; throw a pan of boiling water off a rooftop, it transform into a snowy shower … blow soap bubbles and be amazed at hot they freeze into fragile crystalline balls, they look like Christmas ornaments!
Hot Coffee Freezing in Mid-Air!
Isn't it snowy all the time? Well, it does snow all winter long, from October 'till April. The snow gets deep and it stays around for a long time! It piles up between 6 and 7 feet deep in Fairbanks. Our snow is light and fluffy, white and clean, and it reflects the light.
The snow is light and fluffy because Fairbanks is dry and there is very little wind; 6 feet of snow is only 5 inches of water in the Winter. There is more moisture in the snow in the Spring and Fall.
You've heard about Arizona's extremes? They say that "117 degrees isn't all that hot ... because it is a dry heat?" (right!) Well, the same thing applies to cold and snow in Fairbanks. It is a dry cold and a dry snow.
By the way, I lived in Phoenix area for 10 years and I gotta tell you .. 110 degrees above zero is harder for me to handle than 20 degrees below zero any day! I can always add a layer when it is cold. I never could figure out how to strip down enough to get cool. I'd get arrested!
The snow... it falls in mostly big, fat, fluffy flakes ~ no blizzard conditions because we seldom have wind! the flakes pile up on each individual tree twig and fence post until they curl over. The snow just keeps piling up, deep! I came home from work once to find my children sledding off the roof!
Despite our "cold and dark" reputation, we do just fine in winter ....as long as we dress right for the winter weather. And as long as we plug in our cars when it gets colder than 20 degrees Fahrenheit. On the Winter Adventure page you'll see all kinds of adventures you can have in Fairbanks in the winter, besides sledding off roofs and throwing hot coffee in the air!
Fairbanks summer weather is amazing! It is warm and dry most of the time, often in the high 80s. At night (remember, "night" doesn't mean "dark" in a Fairbanks summer) it cools down considerably, so you still need to be prepared ~ with layers ~ for cooler, 45 to 60 degree evenings.
Fairbanks, Alaska's Sun feels like a very different sun, because of our high latitude. The atmosphere is thinner and direct sunshine on a 70 degrees F in Fairbanks feels much warmer than it does in the lower-48 or in Germany. You can get an uncomfortable sunburn if you aren't careful.
Then a cloud drifts across the sky and settles in front of the sun. It is the same 70 degree temperature, but boy your comfort level is gonna drop! Fairbanks can feel cool suddenly, and warm up just as quickly. That's why you want to wear layers, both summer and winter. And keep them handy in your day pack.
Rain We have about 10 inches of summer rain on average and about 6 or 7 pretty intense thunderstorms. In the chart below you can see "average" rainfall for each month.
You definitely need to plan what to wear and wear the right stuff, regardless of whether your visit is in the summer or the winter.
What do we do in the summer? Fairbanksans are so busy all summer long! Gardening, hiking, paddling and boating, fishing, cycling, floating on rafts or lying on the sandy beaches at the lake! Midnight baseball and soccer games. You get busy working around the house, or on the playground with your children, and suddenly someone looks at their watch. How did it get to be midnight? Once we get in bed most Fairbanksans have no trouble at all with the daylight!
The warmest month is July (on the average). And the highest record temperature was 94 degree F in July 1991 ~ summer weather in Fairbanks at it's best!
The "coolest" month is January. My son was born in January 1989 just before the temps dipped between minus 65 and minus 69 degrees Fahrenheit at our house in Goldstream Valley ~ it lasted for over a week! That's COLD folks!
Every hear of a "Chinook Wind?" It brings warm air suddenly into the Interior of Alaska in the middle of winter...although it isn't "windy." I recall the year it was 20 below zero in the morning, and by noon it was 40 above zero! Sixty degrees change in less than 4 hours! My children were running around our snow covered yard in their bathing suits!
We can expect first Fairbanks freeze of autumn around September 8th.
The last freeze in spring happens around May 15. However, savvy Fairbanks gardeners and farmers don't put out their "starts" unprotected until Memorial Day weekend.
Speaking of gardening, we average 115 freeze-free growing days.
The number of days that temperatures are below -30 degrees Fahrenheit is only 2 days in December, 3 days in January, and 1 day in February.(I don't ride my bicycle when it is that cold!
The rivers freeze up in mid-October and you can usually ski, snow machine, and even drive on the river-ice by October 27th.
Rivers are frozen and safe for travel until the beginning of April. "Breakup" of the river ice usually happens the beginning of May.
The earliest snow I've experienced was September 2nd. The birch leaves hadn't even turned yellow yet.
The snowiest conditions I've ever seen it was in 1992 when we had 13 feet of snow, the time my children were sledding off the roof!