Kotzebue is located in the Baldwin Peninsula on the coast of the Chukchi Sea, part of the Arctic Ocean. The surrounding landscape is relatively flat and largely treeless, characteristic of the tundra biome. The soil is predominantly permafrost.
The city is surrounded by the Kotzebue Sound and a series of lagoons, with the Noatak, Selawik, and Kobuk Rivers all leading into it. This geography makes it an important economic and transportation hub for the region. The biodiversity of the region is impressive. Caribou, foxes, wolves, and various species of birds are native to the area. During the summer, the tundra comes alive with a variety of shrubs, grasses, mosses, and flowering plants.
Kotzebue has a subarctic or polar climate, characterized by long, extremely cold winters and short, cool summers. It is located above the Arctic Circle, and experiences periods of constant daylight in summer and constant darkness in winter, known as the midnight sun and polar night, respectively.
Winter temperatures can fall well below freezing, often reaching -10 to -20 degrees Fahrenheit, while summer average high temperatures typically range from 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Kotzebue is also known for its strong winds frequently occurring throughout the year.
Snowfall is abundant, particularly during the winter months. The area is also prone to storms that can cause coastal flooding. Despite the harsh winter conditions, ice fog and freezing fog are common weather phenomena.