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Alaskan Fall: Earth Image of the Week September 24, 2010
MODIS image of Alaska
Plumes of smoke from a wildfire can be seen northwest of Fairbanks, just above the last "A" in Alaska.
Alaskan meteorologists refer to their state as the "graveyard of Pacific weather systems." This poetic designation means that relatively clear days across America's largest state are rare.

When NASA’s Terra satellite captured the image to the right at midday on Sunday, September 19, 2010, a broad corridor of Alaska was experiencing a brief spell of unusually sunny skies.

Exceptions were the coastal low cloudiness from the Arctic Ocean that was chilling parts of the North Slope, and clouds spreading into the state from the south and west.

The snow-capped Mount McKinley is clearly visible, as are other peaks of the Alaska Range.

However, the barren Brooks Range in the north have yet to receive the season’s first blanketing of snow.

But with daylight dwindling by more than 9 minutes each day right now at Barrow and Prudhoe Bay, it won’t be long before winter’s Arctic chill and gloom descend on the state.

Temperatures on the North Slope are already barely warming above freezing for a couple of hours each day, and drop into the 20s overnight.

Still, many Alaskans are enjoying the last vestiges of summer, and using them to stock up and winterize their homes for the arrival of a chlling season that lasts for about three-quarters of the year that far north.

Full story and image: NASA