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Warming reprieve

winter wonderland.jpg

Lars in Winter Wonderland/Craig Medred photo

For the second month in a row, Anchorage, Alaska has been left out in the cold.

A record run of 14 months with temperatures above the norm ended in December and the latter trend has continued through January, according the National Weather Service. 

The mean temperature of 13.6 degrees for Alaska’s largest city over the first month of the new year was 3.5 degrees below normal, according to the preliminary data. The mean was driven by day-time highs 3.0 degrees below the norm and night-time lows 3.9 degrees below the norm.

The colder weather did bring good news for snowmachine riders, skiers, snowboarders and others who barely endured two, previous, Seattle-like winters with unusual warmth and too much rain.

The colder, more traditional January 2017 delivered an abundance of snow.

The monthly total of 31.7 inches was a whopping 20.4 inches above the normal and within a snowball’s toss of the monthly record of 34.4 inches in 2000.

The month did, however, end with a thaw reminiscent of the winters of 2015-16 and 2014-15 when an oscillating jet stream spun north to bring warm moist air from the North Pacific Ocean into the gut of Alaska.

The Anchorage temperature surged to 43 degrees on Jan. 26, and there was rain in places. It has since cooled down and winter has returned. The weather service is forecasting temperatures to again start falling back to near or below normal this week with day-time highs in the 20s and night-time lows of zero to 10 degrees.

The average high for Anchorage is February is 27 degrees; the average low is 14 degrees. The national Climate Prediction Center report for February, which is just out, predicts a cooling trend for Western Alaska, but gives the rest of the state equal chances of coming in above or below normal.

Not a global trend

Nearly all of the rest of  the nation is forecast to be warmer than normal.

Climatologists note these monthly weather patterns have little to do with long-term climates trends. The earth is now in a period of global warming. The average surface temperature of the planet rose by about a degree during the 20th Century, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. 

The increase appears linked to the rapid build up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Atmospheric levels of CO2 have skyrocketed since man start burning coal to heat and fuel homes and factories, and later began using petrochemicals to power planes, trains and automobiles.

Nearly two-thirds of human, global CO2 emission are now linked to transportation, electricity and home heating, according to the International Energy Agency, with electricity and home heating making up 42 percent of the total. China, where a lot of coal is in use, has become the world leader in CO2 production. The U.S. is number two.

Per capita CO2 emissions in the U.S., however, have been falling, according to the IEA, as have those in Europe. The trend has been the opposite in China, much of the rest of the Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America.

The continued build up of CO2 in the atmosphere is expected to keep global temperatures rising through the 21st century. The gas causes a greenhouse-effect by slowing the release into space of the heat generated when solar radiation hits the earth.

As the planet warms, climate zones are expected to shift northward with Juneau, the Alaska state capital, becoming much like what Seattle is today and Anchorage becoming much like a bigger, more urban version of Juneau.

“…Anchorage May the Place to Be” in that new, warmer world, according to the New York Times.

Unless, of course, you’re a big fan of snowmobiling, skiing or other snow sports. Then Anchorage is the place to be now. The Alyeska Resort just east of  the city was reporting four inches of new snow on a 70-inch base this morning. There was even more fresh snow awaiting snowmachine riders and backcountry skiers in the Chugach National Forest just to the south, but the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center was again warning of avalanche dangers. 

A weekend avalanche killed a 29-year-old Kasilof snowmobiler tempted onto a steep slope by feet of fresh powder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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