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Name: Susan C.
Status: other
Age: 40s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 11/30/2003

How does elevation effect climate? In Alaska? I cannot seem to find answer.


Wow, you asked a complicated question.

Alaska's climates are affected by a large number of factors, including elevation. Virtually anywhere that has a high elevation will be colder than lower elevations at the same latitude. High elevations are also more likely to have more snow and, literally, be in the clouds more if high enough.

Alaska spans a large range of latitudes, from temperate climate regions in the south to Arctic climate on the North Slope (above the Arctic Circle). Alaska has a few mountain ranges with very tall peaks, making for an alpine climate within them. The Brooks Range and Alaska Range are much like the Himalayas, with very large amounts of snowfall and very high winds.

The North Slope, being at low elevations and bordered by the Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea (which are covered with ice much of the year) can experience bitter cold, high winds and icing conditions in the winter and reasonably warm, mosquito infested conditions in the summer. Leads (wide cracks) in the sea ice and the extent of the ice offshore greatly control the weather and climate there.

The southeastern part of Alaska has a damp, cloudy, maritime climate, being bordered on the west by the Gulf of Alaska and to the east by mountains. The snow there is wet and not the best for skiing (my cousin lives there and, being a skier, bemoans this fact).

The Aleutian Islands have a cold, maritime climate, being immersed in the windy North Pacific. It has one of the harshest winter climates in the world.

David R. Cook
Atmospheric Research Section
Environmental Research Division
Argonne National Laboratory

Dear Susan-

Normally at mid and tropical latitudes, an increase in elevation produces a cooler climate. But in the higher latitudes, that is not always the case. Especially in wintertime, where very cold dense arctic air will pool at lower elevations, while higher elevations will be situated above the pool of dense air. So wintertime temperatures in some locations will be warmer climatologically.

In summertime the usual pattern exists though. Lower elevations have warmer climatic temperatures, as a rule.

Wendell Bechtold, Meteorologist Forecaster, National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office, St. Louis Missouri


Temperatures drop an average of 6.5 degrees C per kilometer (3.5 degrees F per 1000 feet) in the troposphere. Keep in mind that temperatures will vary if a large body of water is in close proximity, and land surface conditions.

I hope that this helps.


Bob Trach

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