A Far West Alaskan Blizzard

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I probably blog too much about Southeast Alaska (it’s where I live), so for this post I’m going as far away from SE as one can go and still be in Alaska. Lets look at what Shemya, near the far western end of the Aleutians, and Barrow, on the peak of Alaska’s roof (and points between) have been dealing with weatherwise.

A first class Bering Sea winter storm is just getting through pummeling the far west frontier. This low easily qualified as a meteorological bomb as it deepened rapidly from Japan, across the Aleutians, up the western edge of the Bering Sea and is now weakening northwest of Barrow. Click on the map below to open an animated GIF of the storm’s progress.

bering-low-17-00z

Here’s some of the weather brought by this storm, listed from south to north:

Shemya: “The rock” was hit early and hard and right on the tail of another storm. Late on Tuesday the 15th south winds picked up and were gusting to over 50 mph (80 km/hr) most of the night, all of Wednesday, and into Thursday morning. The storm had a peak gust of 75 mph (121 km/hr) in the wee hours of the 16th.  Intermittent precipitation oscillated between rain and snow.

2011021600.70414.skewt The upper air sounding for Tuesday afternoon at Shemya. Note the strong winds at all levels with 135 kts (150 mph) jet stream winds at around 10 km (33,000 ft). Soundings were missing during the highest winds. Most likely the winds were just too strong for even the Shemya techs to successfully launch a 6 foot (2 m) diameter weather balloon.

The Pribilof Islands: The mid-Bering island group was far enough east to miss the strongest winds, but did have plenty of southerly weather with 30-45 mph (50-70 km/hr) gusts and rain and/or wet snow. This was followed by the cooler westerly flow around the back side of the low, dropping temperatures below freezing and bringing snow and a little drifting and blowing snow.

St. Lawrence Island: Savoonga had around 15 hours Thursday (2/17) with visibilities in snow and blowing snow less than a mile (1/4 mile or 400 meters much of the time) and winds sustained at 30-40 mph (50-65 km/hr) with gusts as high as 69 mph (111 km/hr). Gambell got off a little easier.

Nome: Conditions in the Gold Rush City were much less severe than most in the region. There was some snow and blowing snow and wind gusting to around 40 mph (65 km/hr), but the worst only lasted a few hours on Thursday. Currently however, a secondary low and front behind the first is giving them a 2nd act: Winds have switched back to southeast and increased and snow and blowing snow are back. (see the satellite image below)

s_4f2f Secondary front bullseyeing Nome.

Kotzebue: A slightly subdued version of the Savoonga experience, but with temperatures quite bit colder: from the low single digits (F) (-15 C) on Wednesday rising to the mid 20s F (~-4 C) Thursday compared to 20s and 30s F (~-5 to +5 C) for Savoonga. That kept wind chills down around 15-25 below zero F (-25 to -30 C) through early Thursday.

Point Hope: Fared about the same as Savoonga, but with not quite as high of gusts.

Point Lay: The airport web cam  for Friday mid-day tells the story (compare with stock clear day photo on the right). The low visibility is most certainly caused, as in the other towns, by snow and blowing snow, not fog. Even though many observations report fog during snow storms, it is most often not present — a topic for the future.

PointLay13-19113PointLay-clear10112-clearday

Barrow: By the time this storm got this far north it was weakening, but only slowly. The top of America had winds gusting to around 45 mph (70 km/hr) with visibility around 1/4 mile (400 m) in heavy snow and blowing snow as of the time of this writing Friday afternoon. The temperature, which had been well below zero F (<-18 C) a couple days ago had risen to +16 F (-9 C) around midnight Friday, but has been dropping again as the low tracks into the Arctic Ocean, dragging arctic air around its south side.

Here’s the last 24 hours of observation at Barrow (times are in ADT):

Site M/A Day Time Sky Conditions           VIS Weather Temp DP Wind(kt)  Alt  RH  Chill Peak
PABR  AA 17 2153  SCT090 BKN150              9          12   8 18018     929  84%  -7
PABR  AA 17 2253  BKN100                     5 BS-      13  11 18020     927  91%  -6
PABR  AA 17 2353  SCT095 OVC150              4 BS-      13  11 19018G26  925  91%  -5  27
PABR  AP 18 0000  CLR                    1 3/4 BS-      12  10 19018G26  925  91%  -7
PABR  AP 18 0021  BKN038 BKN050              5 BS-      16  12 20017     925  84%  -1
PABR  AA 18 0053  BKN032 OVC041              5 BS-      16  14 20018     925  92%  -1  28
PABR  AP 18 0115  FEW041 BKN049 OVC090   2 1/2 BS-      16  12 20019     924  84%  -2
PABR  AP 18 0128  BKN060 BKN085              5 BS-      16  14 20020     923  92%  -2
PABR  AA 18 0153  SCT070                     5 BS-      16  13 19018     923  88%  -1
PABR  AA 18 0253  FEW080 OVC200              5 BS-      15  12 20020     922  88%  -3
PABR  MA 18 0353  BKN075                     5 BS-      14  11 19016G22  922  88%  -3
PABR  AA 18 0453  SCT075                     7          11   8 19018     921  87%  -8
PABR  AP 18 0551  BKN080                   3/4 BS-F     12  10 19018     921  91%  -7
PABR  AA 18 0553  BKN080                   1/2 BSF      13  11 19020G23  921  91%  -6
PABR  AP 18 0555  BKN021 BKN035 OVC045     1/4 BSF      14  12 20020G25  921  92%  -5
PABR  AP 18 0604  BKN026 BKN036 OVC047       3 BS-F     14  12 20020     921  92%  -5
PABR  AP 18 0613  BKN013 OVC036            1/4 S+BS     14  12 20018     922  92%  -4
PABR  AA 18 0653  BKN037 OVC048              1 S-BS-    13  12 21018     922  96%  -5  26
PABR  AP 18 0732  OVC075                     3 BS-      10   9 21020     923  96% -10
PABR  AA 18 0753  OVC075                 1 1/2 BS-      11   9 22022     922  91%  -9
PABR  AA 18 0853  BKN075                     3 BS-       8   6 21021     923  91% -13
PABR  AP 18 0925  BKN075                   1/2 SBS      10   9 21025G30  924  96% -12  30
PABR  AP 18 0938  BKN075                   1/4 S+BS     10   9 21027G32  924  96% -13  32
PABR  AA 18 0953  BKN075                   1/4 S+BS     11  10 22024     924  96% -10  32
PABR  AP 18 1000  BKN007 OVC019            1/4 S+BS     10  10 23026     924 100% -12  30
PABR  AP 18 1039  BKN006 OVC026            1/4 S+BS     10   9 24024G34  926  96% -12  36
PABR  AP 18 1043  BKN010 OVC026            1/4 S+BS     10   9 23027G34  926  96% -13  36
PABR  AP 18 1122  BKN010 BKN019 OVC028     1/4 S+BS      9   7 24027G34  928  91% -14  34
PABR  AA 18 1153  BKN014 OVC019            1/4 S+BS      8   5 24025G33  930  87% -15  34
PABR  AP 18 1201  BKN014 OVC019            1/4 S+BS      7   5 24026G33  931  91% -16  33
PABR  AP 18 1217  BKN014 OVC038            1/4 S+BS      7   5 24024G34  931  91% -16  34
PABR  AP 18 1232  BKN014 OVC038            1/4 S+BS      7   3 24031G38  932  83% -18  38
PABR  AA 18 1253  BKN009 OVC021            1/4 S+BS      6   3 24028G34  933  87% -18  38
PABR  AA 18 1353  BKN015 OVC025              1 BS-       2  -2 25022G30  938  83% -22  35
PABR  AA 18 1453  OVC021                   3/4 S-BS-     0  -4 26022G31  941  83% -24  34
PABR  AP 18 1525  BKN025 BKN032            1/4 S+BS      0  -6 26026G33  941  75% -26  33
PABR  AP 18 1544  BKN012 OVC030            1/4 S+BS      0  -4 25024G31  943  83% -25  33
PABR  AA 18 1553  BKN012 BKN021 OVC035     1/4 S+BS     -1  -5 25024G33  944  83% -26  33
PABR  AP 18 1620  BKN012 BKN021 OVC050     1/2 SBS       0  -6 25023G32  945  75% -25  32
PABR  AP 18 1637  BKN012 BKN021 OVC050     1/4 S+BS      0  -6 25029G34  946  75% -27  38
PABR  AA 18 1653  VV014                    1/2 SBS      -1  -5 25021     947  83% -25  38
PABR  AP 18 1728  BKN025 BKN033            1/2 BS        0  -6 26020     948  75% -23  33
PABR  AA 18 1753  BKN047 BKN130              2 BS-       0  -7 25020G30  949  71% -23  33
PABR  AP 18 1804  SCT055 BKN130              4 BS-       0  -8 24020G26  949  68% -23  26
PABR  AA 18 1953  FEW055 BKN150             10          -2  -9 25018     952  71% -25
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