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I'm investigating the feasibility of a world where there are taiga forests located far enough north to experience a significant polar night, say, no civil twilight for at least a few months. Inside the polar circle, at the latitude of Ny-Alesund in Svalbard or higher. The planet would be the same as earth in size, rotation, axis, and so on. For landmasses, I'm imagining something similar to the coast of Alaska or British Columbia, but mirrored to fit the prevailing polar easterlies: a mountainous coastline facing an eastern sea. If I can get a temperate rainforest going in addition to taiga, I'd be thrilled, as long as cloud cover doesn't keep the inhabitants from being able to see the stars and moon during the long night.

I know that a forest once existed in West Antarctica, but I don't have access to details regarding the climate, weather, flora, and fauna. I believe it was estimated to have existed in the Late Cretaceous, and if I understand correctly, West Antarctica would not have been within the polar circle at that time. I'm not terribly interested in what the rest of this world looks like, so I'm willing to wave my hand and say that this planet meets whatever global climate conditions are necessary to make a polar forest possible, so long as that doesn't make the world too alien or uninhabitable. I'd like the plants, animals, and ecosystems to be similar to the ones we know in the subarctic today, just farther north than we can get them in our world.

What I'm interested in knowing is what would the weather be like in such a forest, and how would seasons be affected by a multi-month night in winter and a multi-month day in summer? How cold could the nights get? How hot could the summers get? Is heavy precipitation possible, and if so, could you still have clear night skies in winter? Could there be thunderstorms? Or would the polar easterlies limit precipitation too much, even in a coastal area?

I have a basic understanding of atmospheric circulation as it pertains to worldbuilding, but I've been out of the game for a while and am not confident in my ability to project high-latitude weather patterns. I'd love any feedback that could either help me make my polar forest plausible or convince me to give it up and move on to a more feasible idea.

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  • $\begingroup$ Do you want Earth trees to form this kind of taiga, or some other, sturdier versions of trees? On Earth, trees don't do well in tundra because of two things - scarcity of water and permafrost. We can think of some adaptations which would allow tres to grow at higher latitudes. Otherwise, we need to make climate more mellow. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Dec 3, 2021 at 18:47
  • $\begingroup$ Earth trees would be the ideal; I'm looking for boreal forest, not tundra. But I'm not above making tree modifications as long as an earthling could look at it and say, "yup, that's a conifer of some kind." Bonus points if trees could plausibly be identified as relatives of earth trees: "yup, that's a fir species." $\endgroup$
    – RLoopy
    Dec 3, 2021 at 19:39
  • $\begingroup$ "I'm looking for boreal forest, not tundra" - but you are looking to put boreal forest into the tundra territory, correct? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Dec 3, 2021 at 19:40
  • $\begingroup$ Correct. Possibly even ice cap territory. This would require a shift in global climate of some sort, but I'm only concerned with the area within the polar circle. $\endgroup$
    – RLoopy
    Dec 3, 2021 at 19:46

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Polar Forests

Forests once covered the Earth up to around 85 degrees of latitude. Judging from a map of present day Earth, there is no (or very little) land that far north, but obviously in the south, there's a bit more!

Polar forests do indeed require different climactic conditions than we're used to: higher global temps & more CO2. (Bring on the global warming!)

Since you don't care about what's going on towards the equator, I won't bother looking into it. But the high latitudes seem to have been very pleasant with temperatures in the 60s to 90s.

This article relates a now extinct kind of plant found once in Alaska has relatives growing in the Caribbean now.

Plants reveal that the Cretaceous had a tropical climate, even at high latitudes. The plant Heilungia grew in Alaska. Although it is extinct, its relatives grow in Mexico and the Caribbean, suggesting that Alaska had a tropical climate during the Cretaceous. Temperatures must have varied little, staying around 80 degrees F (27 degrees C) year-round at high latitude. Rainfall must have exceeded 80 in. (203 cm.) a year.

It would seem that the polar regions did have weather, and that it was nice and warm and relatively rainy.

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