The biggest state in the US is a geographical marvel with diverse ecosystems. If you’re planning to visit Alaska, you’ll want to know the likely weather disasters that could happen while you’re in the northernmost state of the US. So, can Alaska have tornadoes?
Alaska has tornadoes. But they’re rare. There have been four tornadoes since 1950, and they’re of the lowest categories. Its location and cold climate ensure that the weather conditions for a tornado rarely happen. But it has other disasters such as flooding, wildfires, volcanos, and winter storms.
Although the state has its fair share of natural disasters, it’s still a great place to go. You can visit the state at any time of the year, depending on the activity you have in mind. But the best time is in the summer. Here, we discuss whether Alaska can have tornadoes.
Tornadoes in Alaska
The US experiences over 1,200 tornadoes every year. But Alaska is the state with the least tornadoes in the US. This is because of its northern location and cool climate. Since 1950, there have only been 4 reported tornadoes in the state. This shows just how rare a tornado can be here. In all these cases, the tornadoes have been F/EF0 categories.
The last tornado to hit the state was in 2005 around Unga Island near Sand Point. Due to the state’s massive size, the effects of the tornadoes are minimal. The tornadoes all happened in the southwest, where there’s plain flat terrain and minimal damage.
The climate of Alaska plays a role in the absence of tornadoes there. The state is very big, with a landmass of 1,477,277 square km. There are several climate classifications within it. The average precipitation and temperatures determine the climate in each part of the state. In Juneau and the southeast panhandle, the state has a mid-latitude oceanic climate in its southern part, while the northern parts have a subarctic climate.
The interior of Alaska has the most extreme climatic conditions as this is where the state’s highest and lowest recorded temperatures have happened. The extreme north has an arctic climate where it’s mostly cold throughout the year, and it’s possible to have a year of snowfall. Since tornadoes require the collision of hot and cold air, the weather conditions in Alaska, which is mostly cold, rarely support it.
Weather Disasters Common to Alaska
The state might not experience tornadoes, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe from everything. Common disasters in the state include:
1. Winter storms
Winter blizzards and summer thunderstorms are common in the state. Since it usually has cold air throughout the year, these storms can happen perfectly in any season. Thunderstorms happen when the temperature is warm and is more frequent in the interior part of the state. Due to the extreme cold of the state, you need to protect yourself against hypothermia.
The state might be the coldest, but it also has the most wildfires in the country, and the largest land area burned. Lightning is the leading cause of wildfires here. In 2004, it experienced 701 fires that burned 6,590,140 acres. The remoteness and sparse of the state make it difficult to deal with wildfires on time.
Ice and snow melt, storm surges by the coast, high precipitation, and ice melt all lead to massive flooding in the state. In the right conditions, it doesn’t take long for an area to flood. This is an issue that most native Alaskan villages are battling.
The Ring of Fire, a region shaped like a horseshoe containing 452 volcanoes, is near the Southern Coast of Alaska. The state has 130 volcanoes, and several are active, i.e., they’ve erupted in the last 10,000 years. The last volcano to erupt in Alaska was the Redoubt Volcano in March 2009. It erupted until July 2009.
Earthquakes, landslides, avalanches, and tsunamis are also common in the state.
When Should Visit Alaska?
The best time to visit Alaska will depend on the activities you have in mind. Most people don’t want to experience the intense cold of the state. So, summer is the ideal time to go. That’ll be between May and July. The weather can still be quite chilly in May, but a light jacket will get you by during the month. By the time it gets to June, the summer is in full stride, and you can enjoy what the state has to offer.
People call Alaska the night of the midnight sun, and there’s a good reason for that. In June, you’ll see the reason in the form of the summer solstice, which happens on June 21. That’s when the state gets the most amount of sunshine. The days are longer than the nights, so there’s more time to bask in the sunshine and have a good time here. July is also great when it comes to sunshine. Temperature peaks at 80 degrees during this month, and daylight is longer.
By August, the weather is usually very wet as this month has the most rainfall in the state. So, pack your rain gear if you’re visiting the south-central or southeast of the state. If you’re looking to travel on a budget, the best month to do this will be in September. By now, the summer months are ending, so the tourist locations are cheaper. But the chances of having great weather throughout September are low.
Winter proper starts in November and lasts from then till around March. Alaska is the ideal place to come if you’re looking for a truly White Christmas experience. The sun doesn’t come out often during this period, and even when the sun comes out, clouds block the view. The darkest day of the year, the winter solstice happens in December. After that, the daylight hours return. The coldest month in the state is January when the temperature drops significantly into the negative.
When people visit Alaska, it’s mostly because of the wildlife, fishing, and national parks. Summer is good for this. But if you want to chase the northern lights, the best time to come will be in the winter.
Alaska rarely experiences tornadoes. But that doesn’t make it a perfect state. It has its disasters that anyone visiting should be aware of. However, it’s an interesting place to visit all the same. You have to take the necessary precautions about these disasters.