The swallows and robins were beginning to nest in Anchorage, Alaska on Friday. The temperature hit 71 degrees, tying the all-time record high. And Friday May 13 appeared to be headed straight into Saturday June 14 in some sort of devilish twist on climate.
Welcome to the Alaska’s new, Seattle-like normal, or at least what has passed as such for months now in the north.
The 49th state is “Seward’s Ice Box” no more.
January and February went without a day when the temperature fell below the normal low. The monthly average temperature hovered above the long-term average for the daily high. “Unseasonably warm,” the national climate center called it.
March – Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race season – thankfully slipped back a little.
March saw a couple of days dip below the normal low, and the average sort of hovered around the normal high, which itself runs about 5 degrees warm than the normal average. It was much the same in April – warm, but not freakishly so.
Then came May, which appeared as if it might mark a return to something near normal, at least on paper.
Temperatures largely stayed within the historical range, even though it didn’t look like it because by May the absurdly little snow that had fallen over the course of the winter had already melted and gone, and there was no sign of the snowmelt runoff that usually goes with spring breakup.
The change from only three years earlier was dramatic. Twenty-thirteen looked like the beginning of a new Ice Age.
On May 15, 2013, the snow at 1,700 feet in the Chugach Mountain Front Range was still almost hub-deep on a fat bike, and one had to look closely to see the tiny buds forming on some trees were at least hinting at spring.
This year? Let’s just say a picture is worth 1,000 words.
The snow is gone. The grass is growing. The trees are breaking out in leaves.
And it only becomes more summer like as one descends toward the Anchorage Bowl where summer has basically arrived a month early.
Normally – if there is anything at all like normal in Alaska – the warmest day of the year is July 10 when the statistically normal high for the summer peaks at 67 degrees. Alaska is now two months and four degrees ahead of the normal.
The “normal” for this date in May? About 55 degrees.
But was anyone in the state’s largest city complaining about global warming? No.
Even the skiers who spent the winter whining about the dearth of snow had given up and were embracing the warmth. Alaskans were barbecuing and biking. Huskies (and other dogs) were sunbathing on decks across the city.
Some were even thinking that the late Gov. Jay Hammond and aide Bob Palmer, two men who led the state into spending millions of dollars on failed projects to turn Alaska into a new global bread basket, were simply men ahead of their time.
(Ignore the irony of Hammond, the greenest governor in state history, fronting for agriculture, the industry with by far the biggest environmental footprint of any resource business.)
Of course, the weather could all be nothing more than an anomaly, a passing blip in the climate record like that which allowed the Vikings to colonize and farm the continent of Greenland only to destroyed by the return of the cold, dark, Arctic norm.
But the archeologists are now saying the Vikings had a good, 500-year run in Greenland. The white folk who arrived in Alaska only a few hundred years ago should be so lucky. But maybe they have weather on their side.
Dismiss this as a pleasant anamoly if you will. It’s easy to do unless, like President Barack Obama, you view Alaska as little more than the poster child for a global warming disaster. But don’t forget this:
The year 2014 was the warmest in the state’s history and now?