If you were shivering in Alaska today, blame the New York Times.
There is an old joke made in journalism that if you want the weather to change, just write about it. The Times wrote about balmy Alaska on Monday on the heals of one of those patronizing mainstream-media visits to an Alaska village threatened by global warming.
“In Shaktoolik, as in other villages around the state, residents say winter is arriving later than before and rushing prematurely into spring, a shift scientists tie to climate change,” wrote reporter Erica Goode.
“With its proximity to the Arctic, Alaska is warming about twice as fast as the rest of the United States and the state is heading for the warmest year on record.”
Apparently, that’s all it took to swing the pendulum.
Within 24 hours, the Washington Post was reporting that “Alaska is witnessing its coldest air in almost two years, and some of the biting chill is forecast to plunge into the western United States in about a week’s time.
“In Fairbanks on Tuesday morning, the temperature tanked to minus-31 degrees, ending a 624-day stretch in which it was warmer than that — the second longest on record. Tuesday afternoon, the mercury only recovered to minus-21, ending a record-long 658-day stretch with highs above minus-10.”
By then, the old Alaska was back and the Times story, which appears to have been reported in September but not published until the end of November, was looking more than a little dated with its photos of the barrier beach-village of Shaktoolik surrounded by blue water.
The water is long gone. The National Weather Service’s latest sea-ice update shows sea ice now well established off Shaktoolik and covering all of Norton Sound just to the north. The forecasters are calling for the ice to grow like crazy in the Bering Sea off Norton Bay in the days ahead, too.
“We expect the ice edge off the west coast to expand to the west, southwest 15 to 25 NM (nautical miles) through Monday,” the Wednesday forecast said, “and we expect the ice in Bristol Bay (to the south) to increase up to 10 NM through Monday.”
The old Alaska is, at least for the moment, pushing back against climate change.
It was 7 degrees below zero in Shaktoolik late Wednesday, balmy compared to Fairbanks which was again headed toward 30 degrees below zero. Lake ice can form at the rate of almost four inches per day in such such cold, and standard winter diesel fuel will begin to gel.
Through October, the 49th state – with the exception of a little corner of the Panhandle up against the Canadian border near Haines – had been enjoying record warmth.
So much for that.
Temperatures in the state’s largest city – where the historic, daily norm ranges from 26 to 14 degrees in early December – were forecast to drop below zero by the weekend.
It was expected to be so cold that the local newspaper was warning people headed out to chop down Christmas trees that they need to be alert and “dress for winter weather.”