June 20, 2016

Must-See Phenomena in Alaska

Happy Summer Solstice! Today is one of my favourite times of the year because it means one thing... the longest day of the year! So, make sure to get outside today and enjoy the sunshine.

The world is an incredible place, filled with many incredible natural phenomena - from days like today when the sun barely sinks below the horizon to that rainbow spanning the sky following an afternoon rain. However, a lot of what we see in the natural world is taken for granted, or goes completely unnoticed. Nature can be pretty impressive when you know where to look. 

From shaking earth to dancing light, the great state of Alaska is no exception to nature's incredible creations. In fact, many of the natural phenomena that occur in Alaska are rare (or infrequent) in other parts of the world, making it an extremely special place.

Today, I'm sharing 5 must-see phenomena in Alaska, with hopes that you will be inspired to visit the great state and witness them for yourself.

5 Must See Phenomena in Alaska

Midnight Sun

Alaska receives more sunlight in spring and summer than any other state, and many other parts of the world. At the equator, the sun rises straight up from the horizon and sets straight down to it. However, at northern latitudes, such as in Alaska, the sun travels in a slanting 360 degree circle in the sky. So, even if it is below the horizon, it's barely below it for a long period. And while the sun isn't visible at that time, there is still a very bright twilight. On summer solstice, the city of Anchorage receives 19 hours of sunlight (as opposed to 6 hours during winter solstice). Whereas communities above the Arctic Circle, such as the northernmost Barrow, receive a full 24 hours of sunlight (as opposed to 0 hours during winter solstice)!

Bore Tide

The "bore" is a tidal phenomenon in which the leading edge of the incoming tide clashes with the flow of the outgoing tide to form a wave that travels up a river or narrow bay. These tides, which can reach 40 feet, come in so quickly that they sometimes produce a bore tide wave that can reach 10 feet high! Alaska's Turnagain Arm and Knik Arm, that surround Anchorage, boast the second highest tides in North America (after the Bay of Fundy). While bore tides can be extremely dangerous, adventurous locals have taken to riding this wave out on a kayak or board.

Sun Dogs

Parhelions, also known as sun dogs or phantom suns, are the result of ice crystal clouds that form a halo around the sun and either reflect or refract light from the sun. If light refracts through it, the sun dog appears as a rainbow, whereas white sun dogs are caused by reflecting light. Sun dogs mostly appear when the sun is "near" the earth, or below a 61 degree angle relative to the horizon. In most parts of the world, this is at sunrise and sunset. However, they are more commonly seen in Alaska during the winter months when the sun is always low in the sky. 


Aurora Borealis

An aurora is a natural light display in the sky, predominantly seen in the high latitude (Arctic and Antarctic) regions. In the northern hemisphere, it is referred to as the aurora borealis, and in the southern hemisphere, aurora australis. The beautiful green, red, or blue lights that you see dance across the sky are actually charged particles (typically electrons, but occasionally protons as well) colliding with the gases in our atmosphere. The resulting aurora's colour depends on which gas the particles collide with. Green and yellow are the most common colours, which is the result of the particles colliding with oxygen.

See also: 15 Things to Know About the Aurora Borealis



While most people would be terrified of an earthquake, people that live in Alaska are quite used to them since the state averages about 100 per day! However, most people don't feel any of these earthquakes because of the sheer size of the state and size of the earthquakes. Most are so small that they barely register on the Richter scale. An earthquake is the result of a rapid release of energy in the Earth's crust. This energy creates waves or jolts that are called seismic waves. The epicenter (point on Earth's surface directly on top of the underground release of energy) occurs where two plates meet. If the epicentre is located on the ocean floor, it often results in the creation of a tsunami.

See also: Fears: My Earthquake Experience

Alaska is on the top of many's bucket lists and these amazing phenomena give you 5 more reasons why you MUST visit the great state! But, if you still need a few more reasons, check these out:
Wildlife Viewing in Alaska
Iditarod: The Last Great Race
Floating the Kenai River
Prince William Sound
Kenai Fjords National Park

Have you ever visited Alaska, or witnessed any of these incredible natural phenomena?

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