Posts Tagged ‘snowfall’

Celebrating the end of the snow drought

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

happy skierWhile some folks back east may have been mightily inconvenienced by recent snows, here in Alaska most people like to see a little snow in the winter. This winter many of us have seen very little. Here in Haines, one of the snowiest sea level towns anywhere, things were looking pretty brown until last week, when we got almost a foot of nice light snow. You could almost hear the relief around town, as folks got back into the swing of snow removal, or dusted off their skis. My family did both, plus made a batch of snow ice cream. (Never made snow ice cream? Strangely, as a meteorologist, Alaskan, skier, etc, I’d not even heard of it for my first 20-some years in Alaska! I was going do a whole post on snow ice cream but discovered it’s not the novelty I thought it was…just Google it.)

How little snow has there been?

Well, the 10 inches that fell on January 28th and 29th a little more than doubled our seasonal accumulation. We had virtually no snow through November, and an inch of new snow overnight on Christmas eve was too close of a call for not having a white Christmas, something folks take for granted around here.

How unusual is that?

Bare ground in mid winter is certainly not unheard of in Haines. Christmases with little or no snow happened in 1974, 1985, 1989 and 1993, but weather records for Haines are not complete enough over the years to analyze it much further. If you look at Juneau‘s longer records, keeping in mind that it is warmer and less snowy than Haines, you’ll find about a one in five chance that Santa would have to lower the wheels on his sleigh to make a dignified landing. That’s the nature of the maritime climate of Southeast Alaska, and the farther south and/or closer to the coast you look, the more transient the snow cover becomes. It can snow harder here than most of Alaska, but it can also melt faster.

Here’s a graph from the Alaska Climate Research Center showing snow depth so far this winter in Juneau compared to the “average” winter. The average is made up to a large extent of big dumps and big melts, but this winter has been warmer (hence lower snow) than even the usual mildness (SO FAR – forecast below).

Elsewhere in Alaska things have not been quite as bad: Looking at Anchorage, you can see they had little or no snow on the ground through November and not too much since.

Fairbanks has gotten 30 out of its usual 50 inches to this date in the winter, and their snow depth has been a bit low, but they’re better off than more southerly areas of the state. This fits the pattern of warmer winters being highly correlated with less snow in the warmer parts of Alaska and less so (or the opposite…warmer winter=more snow) as you consider colder northerly locations. Barrow has been warm this winter and their snowfall has been above average (although their snow on the ground has not been so (difficult to measure either in Barrow.) More on that in this post.

Nome’s snow cover was sparse early on but caught up at the end of November:

What’s next?

Over the past week most of Alaska’s had a big drop in temperature. Will the cold stick around this time? It looks like it will for a while: a week or two for northern and western Alaska but a week at most for Southcentral and Southeast. The forecast for the balance of the winter from the Climate Prediction Center continues this winter’s trend of warmer than normal. But keep in mind…the three month forecast deals in probabilities that don’t get a whole lot more decisive than a coin toss.

Please use the reply link to leave comments, ask questions or tell what you do to celebrate snow where you live.

Iditasnow update & more snow rollers

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Haines beach volleyball court

Since the leap day checkpoint report, most towns have slowed their snowfall pace. Haines and Yakutat, however, have been running hard, each having added an impressive 50 inches this first half of March.

The Top Ten as of 15 March

place town total through 3/15 % of average % of record current depth
1 Haines 357.1” (9.08 meters) 243 116 61” (1.55 m)
2 Yakutat 313.3 (7.97) 218 78 85 (2.16)
3 Kodiak 134.9 (3.43) 196 84 12 (0.31)
4 Barrow 65.0 (1.65) 172 83 13 (0.33)
5 Anchorage 129.4 (3.29) 158 97 34 (0.86)
6 Juneau 130.5 (3.32) 151 66 Trace
7 Haines Customs 342.6 (8.72) 131 93 95 (2.42)
8 Valdez 426.0 (10.84) 131 76 87 (2.21)
8 Kotzebue 78.1 (1.99) 131 65 54 (1.37)
10 Cold Bay 87.7 (2.23) 120 76 23 (0.59)

Remember, the standings are based on snowfall this season compared to the station’s average yearly snowfall. (No, I did not come up with this rating scheme to just to put Haines in the lead). (more…)

Not the last great Alaska snow race

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

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.



How dense is snow?

Friday, February 17th, 2012

The huge section of heavy old snow pictured below finally slid off the roof of our shed sometime in the middle of the night recently. Luckily, it remained jammed vertically in the snow below and did not fall against the shed. What do think it weighs? Click on the photos for a better look…it’s the same berg from opposite ends.

_MG_8135 _MG_8126

It would not be hard to estimate the weight of this thing if we knew its density. And you might want to know the density your snow for a variety of reasons. One of the more common reasons is to figure if the weight of the snow might damage something. Check out the scene from our school a couple weeks ago: (more…)