New climate old


Lars ponders the season/Craig Medred photo

La Nina – the cold-shouldered sister of El Nino – is reported to be dying in the central Pacific Ocean, but you sure couldn’t tell it in Alaska’s urban core on Sunday evening.

Snow was once again falling across the Front Range of the Chugach Mountains, and the outlook for the weeks ahead wasn’t good.

The national Climate Prediction Center update for Sunday had a big “B” posted over the Alaska mainland north of the Gulf of Alaska for the period May 14 to 20. 

The six to 10 day prediction for May 12 to 16 didn’t look any better with the prediction stalking freezing along the south slope of the Alaska Range and only climbing into the 40s for the Anchorage metropolitan area. 


No good news there for those tired of the long Alaska winter.

Though climate change is warming the 49th state, most especially the Arctic portion, the north remains a land where day-to-day climate variations are large and tend toward chilly. The reality is Anchorage will not become the new Seattle any time soon.

Alaska’s largest city might get more of Seattle’s crappy winters, but looks to be a long way from welcoming those warm and comfortable Seattle springs.

The historical record shows the north Gulf Coast has known some sort of January thaw for decades, but the length of the winter warming period has increased in recent years. Even in this the year of the predicted La Nina chill, it was raining in the state’s downhill ski capital of Girdwood in December and January.

Where was she?

Not that the expected La Nina ever really showed herself. Remember back in October when there were warnings of a frosty, old-fashioned Alaska winter?

“La Nina could make winter feel like winter in Alaska,” Alaska Public Media warned that month, and La Nina looked ready to deliver when November in Anchorage proved 1.3 degrees colder than normal.

The cold didn’t last long. December was a balmy 7.5 degrees warmer than normal and January, while cooler was still warm, ending at plus-3.5 degrees. There was a taste of a real winter in a February – 1 degree below normal – but by March the monthly average was once again above normal by a degree and that increased to 2.8 degrees by April.

Maybe May is just making a bid to even things out, though the May-June-July prediction from the climate center does have the state averaging out a little above normal for the next three months.

So maybe if you just hang in there…

And look at it this way, it could be worse. You could be trying to climb Mount Denali where mountaineers had a usually rough time last year. The summit rate as of May 29, 2017 was 12 percent.

Plagued by cold temperatures, loads of snow and high winds, only 20 people made the summit by that date. This year looks to be starting off as something of a replay. It was reported to be snowing at base camp today and after a break Monday, the forecast calls for snow, snow and, yes, snow – sometimes up to almost seven inches – every day through the week on the lower mountain. 

Around the 20,310-foot summit, more snow is predicted with temperatures still winter cold – 11- to 36-degrees below zero. Were that not enough, aside from a Sunday break in the winds, it is expected to blow from 15- to 55-mph every day up top.

Alaska is warming down at sea level, but you can still find real winter up high.

1 reply »

  1. Winter ! It’s awesome! I used to get good snow in south big lake from oct 1- May 1 . May the pendulum swing again !

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