Williwaw Weather, Wonderful Weather

A williwaw is defined by Webster, in part, as a sudden, violent, cold wind blowing down from mountain passes toward the coast in far northern latitudes as on the Alaskan coast and Aleutians. In the dictionary of the Unangan/Aleut language it is described as a squall, whirlwind (wind rising up smoke on the sea), or wind coming from different directions. This is just one of the extreme weather phenomena that occur in the Aleutians.

The mean winter temperature in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor is 36°F, fairly warm by Alaska standards, but tack on the wind chill factor and that quickly becomes much colder. The mean summer temperature is 55°F, but sometimes on a flat, calm, sunny day near the beginning of August, it may reach the 80’s. This happens rarely, as it is rarely flat calm here. The area has been dubbed the cradle of the storms, and the birthplace of the winds. This is because the wind is usually blowing to some degree. It’s kicked up by what are known as the Aleutian lows. Low fronts form out over the Pacific and Bering Seas and move over the Aleutians from West to East. They determine much of the weather over Canada and to some degree, the lower 48 states.

The weather is one of the main conversation pieces if you live and work in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor. It may determine whether or not you go boating, hiking, birding, fishing, beach combing, biking, kayaking, or skiing, which are a few possible activities. You definitely need to dress in layers and keep in mind, to quote a local, “there’s no bad weather, just bad clothes.”