Southeast weather: exceedingly beautiful and very unusual

Boats lined up in Harris Harbor on a sunny, clear day Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016 in downtown Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by Rashah McChesney, Alaska’s Energy Desk - Juneau)
Boats lined up in Harris Harbor on a sunny, clear day Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016 in downtown Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by Rashah McChesney, Alaska’s Energy Desk – Juneau)

The weather has been beautiful in Southeast Alaska for two weeks straight.

That is very unusual. September and October are normally the rainiest months in the region.

Brian Brettschneider is a climatologist in Anchorage who closely tracks Alaska climate data and trends. Alaska’s Energy Desk is checking in with him regularly as part of the segment, Ask A Climatologist.

Brettschneider says the two week stretch of sunny weather has been remarkable.

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Transcript:

Brian: This is the wettest time of year for almost every place in Southeast and it has just been bone dry and quite sunny since about September 28th.

Annie: And give us an example. Pick one of those weather stations.

Brian: Well, in places like Yakutat and Juneau there’s been no precipitation since September 28th or 29th. And for Yakutat, they should have had 11.5 inches of rain; for Juneau they should have had about four inches of rain during that time period. And neither of those places have ever been completely dry for this time of year before.

Annie: Are we looking at any records here?

A Kayaker on Sitka Sound, Sunday, Oct. 9th, 2016 (Photo by Emily Russell, KCAW - Sitka)
A Kayaker on Sitka Sound, Sunday, Oct. 9th, 2016 (Photo by Emily Russell, KCAW – Sitka)

Brian: Well, a lot of times records are kept over a month long period, so it’s too early to say if we’re going to have the record driest October, but for most major stations in Southeast it has been the least rainy period, for say- half a month, during this time of year. Definitely a historic dry spell.

Annie: What might be causing the long dry spell?

Brian: There’s been a high pressure system that’s really been anchored over the eastern half of the state extending down all the way into Southeast. And that prevents any storms from moving in. It’s unusual to have it be so strong and so stable in one spot this time of year. So that’s really led to the record dry spell.

Annie: So can we make any predictions based on that, on what this winter will be like down there?

Brian: It’s really hard to say. We count on these storms to churn up the water and dissipate heat in the Gulf of Alaska and so without these storms it may take longer for that heat to be dissipated which would possibly lead to warmer temperatures. But that could change in a hurry so we just need to keep an eye on that.

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Annie Feidt is the Managing Editor for Alaska's Energy Desk, a collaboration between Alaska Public Media in Anchorage, KTOO Public Media in Juneau and KUCB in Unalaska. Her reporting has taken her searching for polar bears on the Chukchi Sea ice, out to remote checkpoints on the Iditarod Trail, and up on the Eklutna Glacier with scientists studying its retreat. Her stories have been heard nationally on NPR and Marketplace. Annie’s career in radio journalism began in 1998 at Minnesota Public Radio, where she produced the regional edition of All Things Considered. She moved to Anchorage in 2004 with her husband, intending to stay in the 49th state just a few years. She has no plans to leave anytime soon. afeidt (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8443 | About Annie