Wind-blown dust in Haines and other places.
Red flag wildfire danger for the Mat Valley.
Strong pressure gradient along coast.
Back into the freezer
The strong “January thaw” that pushed well into the interior and tied the all time January record for Alaska is being pushed toward the back of our memories by seasonal and colder weather. Boy, it feels colder after a long warm spell! Wind chills here in northern Southeast Alaska are bouncing down to 5 to 15F below zero (-20C to -26C) at times. The wind tunnel of Lynn Canal has had sustained 50 kts with gusts to 76 (58/88 mph, 26/39 m/s), while Juneau has had moderate Taku winds, which come over the mountains instead of around them, giving them a particular gustyness. Southcentral has been feeling the cool-down and wind for several days. Gap winds funneling through the mountains on their way to fill ocean low pressure areas hit the usual Palmer, Whittier, (sustained winds ~35 mph with gusts to ~58 [15G26 m/s ]), and Valdez (30G50 mph [13G23 m/s]). River flats left bare from the recent thaw provided the light glacial silt so easily picked up by the winds. Both Palmer and Haines reported haze or blowing dust with visibility dropping to 2 miles (3 km) at Haines (the Haines airport is closer to the river than at Palmer.) Meanwhile interior temperatures have fallen 80+ Fahrenheit degrees (50 Celsius degrees) in some places since late January!
Nothing new under the icy moon
The most interesting thing about this weather event, in my opinion, is that it is really nothing out of the ordinary. Many days of every winter are spent tying things down or chasing them down all along the coast. Many worse wind storms have come and gone, even this winter. Take Skagway. The peak wind of 36 kts (41 mph, 18 m/s) yesterday has already been endured there on 36 other days since November 1st of this winter, 11 days with a more respectable 43 kts or 50 mph (26 m/s). The warm spell in the last half of January was in a different class. Quite a few stations have new records for January, either single warmest day or warmest January average. Many others place it in the top 3 or top 5, etc. But, as warm and record-breaking as it was, there were past times when it was, depending on the individual spot you’re looking at, almost as warm as, as warm as, or even warmer than January 2014. Alaska winter weather has always included wild swings between warm and cold. Looking at averages does not tell the whole picture. Look at this graph of Anchorage temperatures from 1992. Then click on the graph to browse other years at the NWS site. You’ll see a common theme, with many variations: winter temperatures spend about as much time in the extremes as they do in the so called “normal” range. Around March things settle down, and the summer weather sticks much closer to the score. Similar tune for most parts of Alaska.
Yes, there are some stable, in-between weather periods…winter weather nirvana to most of us. Lets hope for some more of those before the winter is over. What are the ups and downs of weather where you are? What is your idea of winter weather nirvana? Please use the comments link for feedback or questions.
While waiting to board my Alaska Airlines flight from Juneau to Seattle April 9, the all-to-common announcement came over the PA about a likely weather delay. As I happened to have my laptop handy with Internet access available, I quickly checked the Juneau airport weather observations. I did not see any weather issue that would keep the 737 on the ground. The ceiling and visibility were way above minimums. The wind was strong, but pretty well aligned with the runway…not too bad. Here are the observations in METAR format (click here for help in reading them).
PAJN 091353Z 12021G36KT 10SM -RA FEW018 BKN036 OVC050 06/02 A2918 RMK AO2
PK WND 12036/1349 PRESFR SLP880 P0001 T00560022
PAJN 091453Z 13028G37KT 7SM -RA FEW013 BKN032 OVC045 05/03 A2914 RMK AO2
PK WND 13041/1431 SLP867 VIS LWR S-SW P0000 60004 T00500028 58048
PAJN 091553Z 12022G33KT 3SM -RA FEW013 BKN032 OVC045 05/03 A2912 RMK AO2
PK WND 12036/1501 SLP859 P0004 T00500033
What was I missing? Before I could dig deeper, one of the pilots got on the PA and re-educated me, and the whole crowd–mostly seasoned Alaskan flyers with way more weather and aviation savvy than you’d find at a typical airport down south. Read the rest of this entry »
We’re a few days into Spring, at least according to astronomers. Last Wednesday (3/20) was the Vernal (Spring) equinox–equal night, equal day. While the flowers may be blooming many places in the Lower 48, such traditional signs of spring are a long way off here in the frozen north. But here are a few signs of the season for this equinox time of year in Alaska: Read the rest of this entry »
Dry cold, wet cold? no.
Winter cold and summer cold? no. Bitterly cold vs extremely cold? no. Calm vs windy cold? close.
All these would make good blog subjects, but what I’m thinking about today is domestic cold vs imported cold. Seriously.
I have a good recent example. Read the rest of this entry »
Although the world apparently did not end on Dec 21, 2012 the date triggers strong feelings for most Alaskans every year. Of course it is because it marks the winter solstice…the shortest day of the year…and the promise of longer days ahead. It’s a few weeks past the solstice before most Alaskans notice any change, and even longer for the increasing solar radiation to have any noticeable effect on the weather. So, congratulations, we’re about at that point, and in my psychological bag of tricks for keeping upbeat through the Alaskan winter, it is the point beyond which things have got to just keep getting better. My advice is to get outside as much as possible and ingest some of the increasing daylight. At this point in the cycle (January 12th) here are the daylight stats:
||day length (hr:min)
||daily change (hr:min)
Read the rest of this entry »
The question in the title came to me in an email, but for every email I get there are probably hundreds asking the same question in Glennallen. Sure, there are thousands more asking it about where they live, be it Fairbanks or Juneau or Orlando for that matter. But I want to look at what appears to be a unusually cold spot this winter, the capital of the Copper River Valley, population, after throwing in close neighbors Gulkana, Gakona, Copper Center, etc, of a 1,100 or so very tough Alaskans.
Let’s look at the weather depiction map from yesterday Morning, courtesy of the Alaska Aviation Weather Unit. A great example, as Gulkana (that’s where the weather station is located), labeled with its 4 letter code PAGK, was the colder than any station except Northway (PAOR)! It was 40 below (Fahrenheit or Celsius, take your pick), colder than Fairbanks at the time and most of the rest of those off the map to the north. Those around it are way warmer, with only Eureka (PAZK) being in the same ballpark. Talkeetna (PATK) and Anchorage (PANC) are not even below zero! Are not all these places in the Southcentral zone?
When I moved to Alaska in 1982, I was a real cheechako. I did not even know what termination dust was. The term was never mentioned in meteorology school. It does not appear in the meteorology glossaries of the NWS, American Meteorological Society or the Weather Channel, nor is it in Wikipedia. Back then it was a bit of an initiation for new arrivals to figure out what the others were talking about. Here are a couple recent examples, taken Tuesday evening, August 28th. (I back-dated this post a few days to that date.)
Looking west from the Haines High School track. Read the rest of this entry »
Tomorrow kicks off the Southeast Alaska State Fair in my hometown of Haines. Some people have asked “why Haines, and not Juneau,” the largest city in the panhandle, or Ketchikan or Sitka for that matter, if we are talking size. Well, since this is a weather blog, we’re going to talk weather. I think the answer will be clear, or at least fair.
For a summer outdoor event, precipitation is the main threat. Wind is a close second. Sure, it is nice to have warmth and sun, but those usually go along with dry weather: if it is dry it will almost certainly be warmer than if it is wet.
Here’s a graph from the Western Regional Climate Center (actually two graphs merged on my computer):
Read the rest of this entry »