Record low snow totals for Fairbanks recorded in December, January

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Fairbanks has been exceptionally dry over the last two months. A total of just 1.9 inches of snow fell at the airport in December and January, besting Fairbanks previous low mark for the two months set in the winter of 1952-53.

National Weather Service lead meteorologist Christopher Cox attributes the snow drought to El Nino driven high pressure.

“The large ridge of high pressure that’s built up over the eastern Interior and west coast of Canada, and that’s a direct result of a very powerful El Nino that we have ongoing,” he said. “So that blocking ridge has basically blocked the storms to the south of us, and we just have not received the precipitation here in the Interior.”

A foot of snow remains on the ground at the airport, the result of a seasonal total that has so far not suffered due to heavy precipitation events last fall.

“Since the first of July, we’ve had 52 inches of snow, which his 3.8 inches above the normal 48.2 inches which we would expect through the first of January,” Cox said. “And that’s thanks in large part to the record-breaking snow that we had in September and November of 2015.”

Cox says the El Nino conditions that later shut off precipitation, also elevated temperatures above normal last month.

“The coldest temperature for the month of January was 20-below, and that happened on the 16th,” he said. “And that low temperature was the third-warmest low temperature for the month of January on the climatic record.”

Cox says January’s average low was 6 below, nearly 11 degrees above normal, while the average high was 13 degrees, 12 above normal. He says warm and dry conditions are forecast to continue.

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.