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: (more…)
Archive for the ‘Weather Related’ Category
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:
|city||day length (hr:min)||daily change (hr:min)|
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. (more…)
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):
After a particularly nasty winter, Alaskans usually hope for a nice summer to erase the memories. Actually, a lot of Alaskan’s do that after every winter. Well, we are just finishing up (or still waiting for the end of, depending on what part of Alaska you live in) a very tough winter in most parts of Alaska, so hope runs high for the summer. Will it soothe or disappoint the weather weary?
The truthful answer? I don’t know. Seasonal forecasts for the warm season have little skill in Alaska. Worse than winter forecasts, which are far from reliable.
There are two points pertinent to this issue:
- Temperatures vary much less in summer than in winter. While that might make it easier by reducing the potential forecast error, in reality the forecast needs to show skill within the context of that variability. This is the technical explanation. From a human standpoint these smaller temperature variations seem to be relatively more important in summer, perhaps because there is more outside activity. There is about as much grumbling about a 3 degree colder than normal summer month as there is about a 6 degree colder than normal winter month.
- Correlations of summer weather in Alaska with climate systems such as the El Nino/La Nina are either too weak or as yet too poorly understood to be a very useful predictor of a particular summer. Frankly most people have been trying to figure the links with winter weather, probably because winter weather is seen as more important (dangerous, costly, etc.) and I suppose that is right to an extent.
So I’m not putting much confidence in my prediction, and asking you not to as well. This is more of a theory to be played out over the next 3 months than something to make decisions on. (more…)
Memorial day is used in many areas as a marker for the start of summer. Not in St. Paul, Alaska. Today they observed the holiday along with rain, freezing rain, temperatures hovering around the freezing point, and sustained winds around 25 mph, bringing wind chills down to the teens (in F, or around -12 C) . This is one of the more extreme examples of the extreme winter that does not want to leave. I usually do not include May in a winter summary, but this year it seems to want to be in there.
How bad was the winter? In a nutshell, most of Alaska had much more snow than usual, the exception being the interior, where snowfall was not far from average. Here’s the final standing in the Iditasnow, the friendly inter-community snow rivalry. (click for larger version)
Today is the start of the world famous Iditarod trail sled dog race (“the last great race”), so I thought maybe I should give an report on another (unofficial) great race: the Alaska snow race. It has been a very snowy winter in many parts of Alaska and there is plenty of talk and a little bragging and comparing between towns, so why not make a little fun of it? In no way am I wanting to make light of the real hardships experienced in places like Cordova and Valdez, where schools were closed for more than an isolated “snow day” due to fears of structural failure of school buildings, among other problems. Believe me, I understand the issue of dealing with tons of snow, since I live in one of the major league snow towns (Haines). What I want to do is compare details of a longer list of places facing heavy snow this winter, and look at why. First the standings, as of the leap day checkpoint: units are inches for snow and feet for elevation.