Ask a Climatologist: Long temperature streak ends

(Graphic by Brian Brettschneider)
(Graphic by Brian Brettschneider)

For the first time since February, the statewide temperature index for Alaska dipped below normal earlier this week. Sunday and Monday were both slightly below normal, interrupting a 218 day stretch of above normal temperatures.

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 told Energy Desk editor Annie Feidt that the below normal temps didn’t last long.


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Brian: The mid and long range forecasts are indicating we’re going to go right back to an above normal situation, so it’s a brief respite from the long trend of above normal temperatures.

Annie: And when you look at that long trend, what do you see?

Brian: Well we see that there’s been a regime shift in the last few years, where we’ve been above normal the vast majority of the time. It’s been especially acute this year. So there’s really no way to envision where 2016 isn’t the warmest for Alaska by a wide margin.

Annie: What do you mean regime shift?

Brian: So beginning in June 2013, we saw a shift toward a warmer temperature regime. And there’s a lot of reasons that’s happened and a lot of reason we don’t know why it’s happened, largely probably a result of the Pacific Ocean water temperatures and circulations, but since mid-2013 we’ve been way above normal for extended periods of time, only broken occasionally by short duration below normal stretches.

Annie: And when you talk to your colleagues who are looking at Alaska and also seeing that, what reaction do you get?

Brian: It’s a sense of alarm, because the arctic in general is considered the canary in the coal mine, with reductions in sea ice, shorter periods of snow cover, the global temperature shifts are magnified in Arctic areas, so what we see going on in high latitudes can be a harbinger of the acceleration of temperature regime changes globally.