Ask a Climatologist: Recent cold is a rare return to Alaska’s frigid winters of yesteryear

Hoar frost on a fence (Alaska Public Media)

There is no official meteorological definition for what comprises a “cold snap.” It’s just one of those things that you know when you see it. Or, rather, when you feel it.

And many Alaskans are feeling it right now. Temperatures in Interior Alaska have lingered well below zero for a couple weeks, even dipping to 60 below zero in some places, and coastal communities are seeing below-average, subzero temps they haven’t experienced in years.

But University of Alaska Fairbanks climatologist Brian Brettschneider says the prolonged cold for much of Alaska is not a wild deviation from the norm, even if recent years have been much warmer. Instead, Brettschneider says, it’s actually a return to the norm.