The statewide average temperature for Alaska in 2019 is on pace to break a record set just three years earlier. That is, if a cold snap doesn’t change things.
But according to University of Alaska Fairbanks climatologist Brian Brettschneider, even with temperatures dipping for much of the state, it’s looking like 2019 will still go down as the warmest calendar year ever in Alaska.
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“There’s a possibility if the last two weeks are extremely cold, nearly record cold across the state, we may not break the record,” Brettschneider said. “But the overwhelming likelihood is that we’ll eclipse 2016 and have the warmest year on record statewide.”
While breaking the record is notable, records show it’s not very surprising in an ever-warming climate: The temperature record has already been broken twice in the last five years.
And when Brettschneider used the words “warmest on record” he was referring to records going back a long way.
“We have really good records going back 100 years,” he said. “We have a little less complete records going back to say the 1880s. Then we have oral histories that go back decades or more before that.”
A symptom of the record high overall temperatures are the unseasonable warm-ups — sometimes referred to as “Chinook events” — in places like Anchorage, where all of the snow melted at the official snow measuring site in Alaska’s largest city.
With a mostly clear and cold forecast for the next week, Brettschneider said Anchorage could see its first Christmas without official snow cover in more than 30 years.
“We would technically go in the books as not having a white Christmas,” Brettschneider said. “Now, across most of town, there is a little bit of snow around, an inch or two, but that’s not where it’s officially measured. Where it’s officially measured they had a couple of Chinook events that hit that part of town and spared the rest of town, and when it hit that area it melted their snow out.”
Many areas south of Anchorage are in the same situation, while to the north, some areas are above-average for snow coverage, Brettschneider said.