Encompassing over six million acres of land in a subarctic biome, and spanning the Alaska Range with an elevational difference of almost 20,000 feet, Denali National Park and Preserve experiences a wide range of meteorological conditions. Mount McKinley at 20,320 feet above mean sea level is the highest point in North America experiences some of the most severe weather in the world. A visibility webcam at Wonder Lake offers an up-to-date look at conditions on the north side of Mount McKinley throughout the summer, and lets you track year-round weather and air quality updates near Park Headquarters.
Denali National Park and Preserve straddles two of the major climatic zones of Alaska — the transitional maritime zone south of the Alaska Range and the continental zone in the interior region, north of the range. The Alaska Range exerts a major influence on the climate of the Interior by blocking much of the moisture that sweeps inland from the Gulf of Alaska. Therefore, the north side of the park is characterized by less precipitation and greater fluctuations in temperature (hotter in summer and colder in winter) than the south side. Temperatures of minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit (°F) and lower are not unusual on the north side of the range during winter, and although summer temperatures can climb to 90°F, they can also fall below the freezing mark.
Daily weather observations, including minimum and maximum temperatures and precipitation amounts have been recorded at park headquarters since 1923. Temperature extremes at park headquarters range from 91°F to -54°F. Average maximum temperatures at park headquarters are 11°F for January and 66º F for July. The average minimum temperatures for the same months are -7°F and 43°F, respectively. The daily temperature range during the summer months (June through August) averages 22ºF. Much wider daily temperature ranges (up to 68°F) occur during the winter months.
Climate has a dominant influence on the ecology of Denali, and understanding the key relationships affecting climate patterns plays a critical role in understanding and predicting physical and ecological changes within the park. The most direct and profound effects are likely to include changes in temperature and precipitation. Park staff have collected weather data at Denali National Park & Preserve as part of the U.S. National Weather Service Cooperative Weather Observer Program for over 75-years. This dataset offers valuable information for detecting changes or trends in both temperature and precipitation. In the past decade numerous weather stations have been installed around the park to provide information for fire management, aircraft advisories, and research projects. The information collected at these stations provides important baseline data to include in long-term monitoring records.
Did You Know?
Did you know that Mount McKinley National Park was originally created to protect mammals, not because of the majestic mountain?