I know the headline sounds like some type of shade-laden political statement, but it is not. It is science. There are some pretty interesting things that happen in the far reaches of the Arctic involving the Sun and darkness. Here’s a quick primer on why the sun won’t rise again in Utqiaġvik, Alaska (the town formerly known as Barrow) until after the inauguration of the next President of the United States. At the time of writing, all indications point to that being Joe Biden.
The inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden is scheduled for January 20th, 2021. Utqiaġvik, Alaska, which was called Barrow until 2016, is the northernmost town in Alaska. It sits at a latitude of 71.29 degrees N, which is above the Arctic Circle. Because of its unique position, it experiences something called “Polar Night.” According to TimeandDate.com website, “Polar night is the opposite of midnight sun, when none of the Sun’s disc is visible above the horizon at all. It only happens within the polar circles.
In the Northern Hemisphere, much of the region above the Arctic Circle experiences some degree of darkness because the Earth is starting to tilt away from the Sun. Polar Night at the North Pole can last for roughly six months (Autumnal Equinox to Vernal Equinox). At that point, the Midnight Sun or Polar Day begins. It is actually a myth that all locations experience complete darkness. The further poleward you go above the Arctic Circle, the darker it gets. According to the website Alaska.org, here is the sunset and sunrise for Utqiaġvik (Barrow), which is located 330 miles north of the Arctic Circle – Sunset (November 18th, 2020), Sunrise (January 23, 2021). That is 67 days of darkness.
In case you are curious, there is some hint of light over the two month period of darkness. According to the National Weather Service – Fairbanks, Utqiaġvik will receive about 3 hours of civil twilight, which is described as the situation when the sun is 6 degrees below the horizon or less.
I hope you learned something from this article. It was completely inspired by my Florida State University classmate Richard Henning’s Facebook post as I scrolled through my newsfeed so thank him if you did.