Heading for winter


As hunters take to the hills for the start of Alaska big-game seasons and kids start getting ready for school, the National Weather Service is warning citizens living in and around the 49th state’s urban core that its time to dig out the rain gear and long johns as well.

Snow – what old-timers in the 49th state call “termination dust” – could be topping peaks above 3,500 feet by the weekend, the federal agency warned in a special weather statement headlined “COOL AND WET WEATHER IN STORE FOR THE WEEKEND.”

Five days ago, residents of the state’s urban core were basking in the heat of summer. Temperatures hit 75 degrees in Anchorage at the head of Cook Inlet and climbed to 82 degrees in the tourist hamlet of Talkeetna to the north.  

August overall was looking unusually nice with the average temperature running near 3 degrees above the norm for the month and rainfall lagging behind average by more than half an inch.

The nice could all be averaged away by the end of the weekend.

“Rain will move into south central Alaska Friday and Friday night,” the weather statement said. “Periods of rain are expected through Sunday morning. Rain could be
heavy at times, even for some inland locations. Cooler air will  also move into the area Saturday night into Sunday morning. Snow  is possible for the higher mountains Saturday night and Sunday  morning, with snow levels potentially dropping as low as 3500 feet in elevation.”

Back to normal

After the year of the big heat – “Baked Alaska: Heat records shattered across state,” USA Today headlined in July 2016 – the country’s northernmost state has returned to something near normal in the year 2017.

Climate change’s year-long fever – “‘Unrelenting Warmth’: 2016 Smashes 2014, ’15, Records as Alaska’s Warmest Year, Experts Say” – broke in December, and since then Alaska has been back to its good-old, bad-old, predictably unpredictable self.

Anchorites who had too quickly adopted to what some thought a new, Seattle-like normal started the new year shivering through a normally dark, but three-and-a-half degree colder January. They found a bit of a reprieve in a February only a degree and a half colder than normal before getting slapped in the face by March, which was a frigid 7.4 degrees colder than the long-term average.

At 3.6 degrees above normal, April looked like it might have the state trending back toward that human-comfortable global-warming that isn’t necessarily as despised in Alaska as it should be. But May and June were almost dead-on normal.

July crept above normal again and August started out to be the human-friendliest month yet in the north, and then….

Snow can fall in any month high in the coastal mountains of the 49th state, but it’s not common. Mid-August snows are usually reserved for the mile-high altitudes of the mountains that stretch across the colder, more remote center of the state.

Temperatures at some weather service sights in the Chugach Mountains along the coast, however, were already down into the 40s Thursday night.




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