As I noted at this time last winter (Sunshine...1/1/14), the winter solstice in Alaska is not just a time of short days and cold weather. The low angle of sun (it rises just over 2° above the horizon) makes for fantastic sun rises and sunsets. Since the day length changes only a few seconds per day during mid December, these short day sunsets occur for several weeks. As noted here:
"December may be marked by Christmas, but for pagans it’s the time to celebrate Yule holiday. This ancient event marks the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere (Sunday, Dec. 21, this year) and celebrates the rebirth of the sun and beginning of winter. It is one of the oldest winter celebrations known.
The winter solstice is the longest night and shortest day of the year. The Earth’s axis tilts the furthest away from the sun at 23-and-a-half degrees, giving all locations north of the equator less than 12 hours of daylight. This moment has been marked by mankind for centuries. Celebrating the rebirth of the sun can be seen in other cultures throughout history. While these typically took place during the coldest, darkest days of the year, winter solstice traditions were celebrations that gave people hope sunny days lay ahead.
In ancient Rome, the weeklong feast of Saturnalia honored the sun god Saturn. Celts believed the sun stood still for 12 days, making it necessary to light a log fire to conquer the darkness. During the Iron Age, the Celts and other ancient Europeans welcomed the winter solstice by feasting, merrymaking and sacrificing animals." (http://www.ibtimes.com/winter-solstice-2014-3-things-know-about-pagan-yule-celebrations-1763756). Now a days, people still celebrate the Christmas holiday by decorating trees, hanging wreaths, and burning yule logs, not realizing they're carry-overs from these ancient pagan rites.
Here's some photos taken during solstice week:
Like October, December started with a snowstorm. This time we got almost 8 inches of snow over two days. It was a good excuse to finally get outside and push some snow around with the tractor. And now we can quit worrying about the septic freezing up like it did 2 years ago when we didn't get much snow until new years. As for November, here's the NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE's monthly summary:
"November 2014 was warm and dry overall with no significant cold
snaps or large storms for the Fairbanks area.
The average high temperature was 19.0 degrees which was 8.1
degrees above the normal high and
ranked as the 20th warmest of 110 years of record. The average low
temperature was 2.5 degrees above the
average low temperature and ranked as the 20th warmest. The average temperature for the month was 10.8 degrees which was 8.2 degrees above average and ranked as
the 19th warmest on record .
November was very dry with the first measurable snow not
occurring until the 25th when 2.6 inches of snow fell at the
airport. For the month, only 3.8 inches of snow fell which was 9.4 inches below
the normal snow fall of 13.2 inches. This ranks as the 85th snowiest
November of 99 years of record. Only 0.18 inches of water equivalent
fell which was 0.49 inches below the normal of 0.67 inches. This ranks as the 15th driest of 100 years of record.
Looking forward to December, the average high temperature drops
from 7 above on the 1st to 2 above on the 31st. the average low
drops from 11 below on the 1st to 16 below on the 31st. In the
last 109 years temperatures have varied by 120 degrees, from a high of 58 above in 1934 to a low of 62 below in 1961. Average snowfall is 12 inches but has been as much as 50.7 inches in 1984 to as little as a trace in 1969. The long term outlook for Fairbanks for December calls for increased chances for above normal temperatures
and equal chances for above or below normal precipitation.
December is the darkest month of the year with possible sunshine
decreasing from 4 hours and 41 minutes on the 1st to the annual
minimum of 3 hours and 42 minutes on the winter solstice. By the
31st possible sunshine increases to 3 hours and 58 minutes gaining
16 minutes along the long climb back to the
summer solstice in June."