The Interior of Alaskan Life 3: 40 degrees below zero

Did this photo make you spit out your coffee?   Well it’s that time of year again in Fairbanks, Alaska where we carefully consider each chore we need to to do by car (or bike!) and whether we really need to leave the house.  We frantically chop wood, complain, and rationalize eating anything we want.

40 below

I need to point out that -40 degrees is universal.  When I travel abroad and talk temperature there is often confusion for anyone in the rest of the world due to our antiquated use of Fahrenheit.  Well, worry not those of you who dwell in the modern world of Celsius; Celsius and Fahrenheit are the same at 40 below.  Yes, 40 below is the temperature that binds us all. With that cleared up, I’ll move on.

A friend from Portugal laughed when I posted yesterday’s local temperature to his Facebook page.

“How do you go outside?” he asked (probably mockingly).

Of course, we layer up with lots of clothes.  I wear a fur hat made of beaver.


The beaver was caught by a Native Alaskan friend of mine in Unalakleet, Alaska and sewn by his mother. Many people wear military issued “bunny boots”  designed for Arctic warfare during the Cold War era.


Arctic warfare, indeed.  They must have been joking because though bunny boots are warm you can’t walk or drive a car in them safely. Anyway, long before getting dressed you think ahead to tomorrow.

“Did I remember to plug my car in?”  In this harsh environment, we have our cars “winterized” with a “battery blanket”  to warm the battery, a battery charger, a block heater in the engine, and an oil pan heater that are all wired together. From the vehicle, we run an extension cord to an electrical outlet often equipped with a timer, which is set to start warming your engine and battery 3-4 hours before you need to start your car.  I ofter warm my car up for 20 minutes or more, thus making my gas consumption substantially higher in winter (add it to the list of complaints).


These extremely harsh conditions are also one of the things makes Fairbanks and Interior Alaska a special place.  During these cold snaps, people really watch out for one another. I recall walking outside on several occasions over the years during 35-50 below temperatures and hardly a car would pass without stopping and asking, “You OK?” or “Need a lift?”. In turn, I think that gets passed between community members a carried on. Otherwise when hanging up the phone with a local friend it is generally asked, “Need anything?”.

So in these times that can really try ones patience and question why the heck they would live here, there is a genuine sense of community and it goes a long way. Yes, 40 below brings you (the non-Alaskan) and I together by a system of measurement but it brings Fairbanks together to be one of the best communities in Alaska .

At the time of writing:

Local temperature: 40 below zero

Sunrise/Sunset: 10:35 AM/ 2:49 PM

Total day length: 4h 14m 36s

Any questions?

I hope you liked the small window into life in the Interior of Alaska. If you like what you see here please Like or Follow us on WordPress.  Of course, if you are on Facebook please “Like” us there too.  You can also Tweet with me or Join My Circles on Google+

103 thoughts on “The Interior of Alaskan Life 3: 40 degrees below zero

  1. Pingback: Only in Alaska! Moose chills in the sprinkler | ExploreDreamDiscover Talks

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