Learn About The Most Northern City In The World

Written by Justin Sexton
Published: November 18, 2023
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When we think of northern cities, we think of the massive popular cities. Toronto, New York City, London, and even Moscow. Those four cities have millions and millions of people there and are popular in their individual ways. New York City got Wall Street and became known as the mecca of hip-hop. Toronto got the world’s largest underground mall and fame from Drake. London and Moscow have plenty of international history.

Whale bone arch in Utqiagvik, Alaska at the edge of the Arctic Ocean. Referred to as the "Gateway to the Arctic", it symbolizes the community's relationship to the sea and whaling.

Whale bone arch in Utqiagvik, Alaska at the edge of the Arctic Ocean. Referred to as the “Gateway to the Arctic”, it symbolizes the community’s relationship to the sea and whaling.

©JKBay/Shutterstock.com

However, these famous cities are not famous for being the most northern city in the world. Not even the most northern city in Alaska, Utqiagvik, is the most northern city in the world. It is one of the most northern cities in the world and the northernmost city in the United States. In the 2020 census, Utqiagvik had a population of 4,927 people. Their population actually grew from their 2019 population. It is roughly 1,300 miles away from the North Pole.

Believe it or not, only 2.6% of the Earth’s land surface area stretches as far or as further from Utqiagvik, Alaska. Temperatures at Utqiagvik remain below freezing from October through early May and below zero between December and March. Their summers, even at their warmest, are mildly cool. So if there is a city even more northern than Utqiagvik, their climate has to be similar or even more extreme, right?

What Is The Most Northern City In The World?

A video of a YouTuber doing a multi-day cruise around the Spitsbergen island in Svalbard. Day 3 has the YouTuber traveling to Ny Ålesund.

Three of the most northern cities in the world are in Norway. The most northern city in the world belongs to Ny Ålesund in Svalbard, Norway. How far is Ny Ålesund from the North Pole? It is only 760 miles from the North Pole! The city is on the Spitsbergen island in Svalbard. It’s on the bay of Kongsfjorden. Currently, the town is owned and operated by Kings Bay, a company that provides research facilities for 11 countries. It is ultimately owned by the Ministry of Climate and Environment. So, the Norweigan government doesn’t recognize it as an official town. It lacks any formal area.

What Are Some Features Of The City?

The city keeps a population of 30 to 35 residents annually and sometimes will have over 110 residents there for research purposes. It has an airport, a mining facility, and a rocket launch facility. Ny Ålesund requests its visitors or residents to turn off their Wi-Fi and Bluetooth as those features can disrupt some of the research technology. The city’s average high is twenty-nine degrees Fahrenheit and the average low is twenty degrees below Fahrenheit.

Some of the world’s best researchers live in the city and come from countries like Italy, South Korea, Norway, the United States, India, Japan, Germany, and France. Some of the things that are researched there include glaciology, physics, chemistry, biology, marine ecosystems and pollution, rockets, Earth and Life sciences, and glaciology.

Ny Ålesund mostly has coal mining fields. Off-road motorized transportation is strictly prohibited. But, the researchers there use snowmobiles for commercial and recreational purposes to get around the city. The staff members there use radio astronomy to communicate with other people around the world.

Ny Ålesund is not recognized as a formal city by the Norwegian government. The city lacks formal areas to draw as its boundaries. There are several animal species in the area such as birds, Arctic foxes, polar bears, and reindeer. Based on geography, Ny Ålesund is the northernmost city, but since the government of Norway doesn’t recognize it as an official city, what is the northernmost city with clear borders?

Based On Government Technicalities, What Is The Northernmost City In The World?

It still isn’t Utqiagvik, Alaska. That city is 1,300 miles away from the North Pole. However, it’s another city in Norway: Longyearbyen. Longyearbyen is only 817 miles from the North Pole. It’s on the left bank of the Longyear Valley and on the west coast of Spitsbergen. Longyearbyen is just over a hundred miles away from Ny Ålesund. In the Svalbard region of Norway, Longyearbyen has the largest population. It was recognized as an official municipality in 2002.

Climate

In 2021, Longyearbyen became the fastest-warming town in the world. Temperatures in the Svalbard city have risen five times faster than the global average. How has this come to be? It’s due to the convergence of mild and humid air from the south and cold air from the north. From 1991-2020, the average temperature at Longyearbyen increased by six degrees Fahrenheit in that thirty-year span.

Like some parts of Northern Alaska, they experience midnight sun (the sun being out for 20 hours a day) and polar night (it being dark for 20 hours a day). Instead of experiencing those natural phenomena for forty days, the Longyearbyen people experience the phenomenon for over 100 days in those respective seasons. The warmest temperature in Longyearbyen was recorded in July 2020 at 71 degrees Fahrenheit. The coldest temperature in the city was 51 degrees below in March 1986. Nowadays, it seems like the average temperature for the city will only continue to increase.

Demographic

As of 2020, the population mainly consisted of Norweigan natives. The second-highest demographic in Longyearbyen is Thai. Longyearbyen deals with a high turnover rate for their population. Back in 2008, 23% of people moved away from the city. The average citizen there lives in the city for 6.3 years; 6.2 for Norwegians and 4.3 years for foreigners.

The Community

Living in Longyearbyen is interesting. They have two museums including an art museum and an airship museum. The city has an annual week-long festival to celebrate the first day of sunlight in early March. Technically, the first day of sunrise happens in the middle of February, but most of the area is still in darkness at that point of the year. The city also holds several film festivals throughout the year.

They have several sports clubs played at a major recreational center. Some of the major sports they do at the recreational center are rock climbing, swimming, handball, and badminton, and they even offer a shooting range there.

Transportation mostly consists of cars and snowmobiles. There aren’t any brand car dealerships outside of the city’s own dealership. They do have an airport that helps people leave Longyearbyen to go to other places in Norway. People also use boats to get from one point to another. It has grown popular with tourists in the last thirty years as the number of visitors went up from 39,000 in 1995 to 85,000 in 2021.

Many people tour the area for the natural phenomena rather than visiting the actual town. The city relies on its coal mining facilities, fishing, and the city’s university as several pillars of the economy. They only have one grocery store in the city. Longyearbyen is also a popular city for research as it’s the second biggest research-based city only behind Ny Ålesund by a significant amount.

The city also has some unusual laws such as a ban on cats, how much a person can purchase alcohol in a month, and people can’t venture outside with a rifle as they have a law on protecting polar bears. They also don’t have burials as the climate doesn’t help bodies decompose, so terminally ill people are sent to the mainland of Norway. This unusual decision came along in 1950 as bodies of residents who passed form the 1918 flu pandemic didn’t decompose.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © photovideoworld/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Justin is an A-Z Animals Writer that loves to cover places, unique natural disasters, and travel. He has eight years of experience as a writer in the medical and media fields. He wrote for the likes of VCU Health, theMSQshop, PayDay LA, and Comic Book Resources under the penname Jay Guevara. Although he's a full time writer, Justin graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2019 with a Bachelors in Health, Physical Education, and Exercise Science with a background in Community Engagement. After spending over two decades in Richmond, Virginia, Justin now resides in the suburbs of Rancho Cucamonga, California. He's a dedicated gymrat. He's also a two-time poetry author who's influenced by rappers Joe Budden and IDK along with Dante Alighieri.

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