Photos of Alaska skies

Alaska Skies II

Seasonal sky phenomena across Alaska can occur abruptly or cover several hours … some events not to be appreciated again for years … or never again in a lifetime. From the top: Rainbows, of course, are relatively common during our summer season of long days. Double arcs are always nice.

The clarity in our sub-zero winter atmosphere allows for countless starfields to be enjoyed, especially on a moonless night. Powerful weather systems often collide over Alaska’s many mountain ranges, forming exquisite cloud formations through intense wind shear. Approaching snow storms are struck by our low-angle sunrises painting the sky and land watermelon-pink. Our summer twenty -plus hour sun sets far in the NW and, depending on atmospheric conditions, will throw crepuscular shadows for many miles off mountain peaks.

At right: A “Fallstreak Hole,” also known as a “Punch Hole” cloud, can be circular or elliptical and are formed by super-cooled water droplets that have yet to freeze at high altitudes. (It’s a little more complex than that … Google “Hole Punch Clouds!”) Powerful, down-sloping winds off the mountain ranges will often micro-burst across the glacier deltas lifting plumes of glacier silt hundreds of feet into the air. When enjoying auroral displays in autumn skies, sometimes you get a gift of a massive fireball adding to the scene … and if winds are calm, a glassy lake will double the spectacle for you.

Many years ago, an extremely dry summer in eastern Russia caused huge forest fires. As the smoke encircled the Earth, it filtered Alaska’s sunsets for a time. The 180-degree panorama shows Alaska’s southern winter sunset, rising at 9:45 a.m. at 138 degrees southeast and setting around 3:50 p.m. at 222 degrees southwest, an arc of 84 degrees only rising just above seven degrees at Solar Noon. The “reverse” of that is our long summer sun which only dips below the northern horizon for a few hours. In the high-latitude north, the sun does not set for days and twilight is so bright that you can’t see any stars.

All images © Dave