Bristol Bay has recorded its coldest November in 80 years (and so has Bethel) after low temperatures settled over much of Alaska last month.
“This is going to be by far the coldest November of record in King Salmon,” said University of Alaska Fairbanks climate scientist Rick Thoman. “In fact it’s going to be so cold, that if this were December, it would be a top 10 coldest December.”
On Nov. 27, the temperature in King Salmon plunged to 28 degrees below zero, which tied an all-time record for November. In Dillingham, the temperature hit negative 21 degrees.
“While we don’t have as good climate records for Dillingham as we do King Salmon, it sure looks like this is the lowest temperature in Dillingham since 1963,” Thoman said. “The all-time record for November was set that month at 26 below.”
Dillingham set another record early Nov. 29 with wind chills at negative 41 degrees. That’s the lowest November wind chill for the area in the past 50 years.
Thoman said that weather patterns in the Bering Sea have directed storms south of the Aleutian Islands and the eastern Gulf of Alaska. That’s kept a cold northerly wind blowing across the western part of the state.
“As a result, most places have not had very much snow and the cold has hung in,” he said. “And it’s really the stability of that pattern. It’s not like cold snaps in November don’t occur but they’re often punctuated by Bering Sea storms that come along and warm things up. Not this year.”
The cold air helped create sea ice growth in the Bering Sea and Bristol Bay. Thoman said that early season ice growth is the best it’s been since 2012.
“And that of course will also contribute to the potential for cold weather,” he said. “Now if we go into a sustained warm pattern, especially in Bristol Bay, that ice could get eaten away. But we’re off to a much better start than we have been in nine years.”
According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, temperatures will likely lean below average for the Bristol Bay region through February. La Niña conditions at the Pacific equator are also supporting high pressure systems over the Bering Sea — which means those cold northerly winds should continue for the region over the next three months.