At a first glance, the city of Utqiagvik might seem like any other arctic city. It’s unsurprisingly cold, with permafrost prevalent throughout most of the year, as well as gloomy, with Utqiagvik being one of the cloudiest places on Earth. Though the climate is unforgiving, the city has over 4000 citizens, with the majority of people being Alaskan Native. They are also one of the northernmost public communities in the world as Utqiagvik is located far up north, making it the northernmost city in the United States. And people of Utqiagvik are definitely proud of it, as their motto is “The Northernmost American City”.

Utqiagvik is the northernmost city in the United States

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Previously known as Barrow, the city of Utqiagvik is the economic center of the North Slope Borough. Some people help out with oil field operations, others rely on government work, while the rest rely on tourism. And you might ask yourself why would anyone come to a place so far in the North with such an unforgiving climate?

Well, like other arctic cities, Utqiagvik experiences quite a few natural phenomena related to the sun and day-night cycle. One of the most prominent events is the midnight sun.

Like many other areas in the Arctic Circle, Utqiagvik experiences the phenomenon known as the midnight sun

Image credits: Daniel Case

Midnight sun occurs in the summer months in the Arctic circle. At that time the sun up for 24 hours of the day, meaning that at midnight, the sun is visible (if the weather is good). During this time, many Arctic cities host various events and festivals to attract tourists that want to experience the magical moment of seeing the sun at nighttime.

Image credits: Joseph

However, midnight sun isn’t the only occurrence that makes Utqiagvik stand out. Unlike other Alaskan cities, Utqiagvik is located so far north, that during the winter months it experiences an unusually long polar night. A night that lasts 65 days!

As midnight sun occurs in spring-summer, by winter the city goes dark

Image credits: weatherchannel

In 2018, the sun set for the last time that year on November 18. With it, the city descended into the long night and will only see the sunrise on January 23. And even then the sun will only brush against the horizon and fully return only about a week later.


The polar night lasts 65 days, with only mere hours of civil twilight to provide any natural light

Image credits: mark_tarello

During the first half of the polar night the amount of twilight decreases and around Christmas, on the winter solstice, civil twilight in Utqiagvik lasts for only 3 hours.

The citizens will see the sun again only by the end of January

Image credits: Floyd Davidson

That means that while the city won’t be completely plunged into darkness, the amount of light is very minimal. Thankfully, the residents of the city are used to the extended periods of darkness and after welcoming the sun back in January can look forward to the midnight sun.


Image credits: U.S. Department of Energy