Halloween might be greeted by snow on the ground. Maybe.
For decades in Alaska’s largest city, Halloween has marked the informal start of winter. Either there is the frozen ground of the frigid north by then or there is snow or often both.
Other unusually warm or dry years have hinted they might make it to the end of October without ice in the ground or snow on it, but they never did.
This year? Who knows.
It’s so warm the locals are feeling a little spooked.
Normally, three-tenths of an inch of snow would fall on Oct. 25. Instead it was raining.
The days record high of 50 tied a record set in 2002, and the average daily temperature was poised to break the 2011 record of 43.
Record after record
It was the fourth day in the week that Anchorage had met or beaten historic highs.
And yet the forecasters were promising a return to seasonal before the end of the month.
The trend was predicted to continue into the week with a “chance of snow showers” on Halloween turning into “snow showers” by Halloween day.
Whether the snow will stick is a question mark. The temperature isn’t forecast to drop below freezing until Sunday night.
Alaska Department of Transportation highway monitoring sites in the Anchorage area were Thursday recording subsurface ground temperatures of 42 to 44 degrees. It takes time to suck that much heat out of the ground.
Anchorage has never gone this late into October without an official freezing temperature. The previous record for the latest first freeze dated to Oct. 16, 1969. Anchorage has now broken it again and again and again and…
The coldest temperature this month was 36 on the Oct. 22 at the official weather service measuring site. Night time temperatures have only warmed up since then.
Anchorage residents admit they’re enjoying the temps even if the conditions seem other worldly.
With the temperature at 55 on Tuesday and the sun warm on the Anchorage Hillside, one resident remarked that it would have been a very nice day for September only to have a neighbor retort, “Hell, this would be a nice day for August.”
The weather has stirred much discussion about climate change and global warning, but climatologists note the huge annual variations in climate, not to mention local differences.
NWS TV desk program leader David Snider said some parts of Anchorage have likely already seen overnight freezes despite the high temperatures at the weather service station near Cook Inlet. Anchorage has a lot of microclimates – some of them notoriously frigid.
“There’s a lotta local around here,” Snider message. “Every corner is different.”
Winter sports fans in the state, of which there are many, are keeping their fingers crossed. The snow came late in 2011, too, with the first 1.1 inches not accumulating unti Oct. 30.
After that, the snow just kept coming. November, December, January and February all ranked in the top 10 for snow and after 4.3 inches fell on April 10, Anchorage had a new record for winter 2011/2012: 134.5 inches.
That’s more than 11 feet, enough to bury a pickup in your driveway.
Four years later, significant parts of the state witnessed record low snows. Alaska weather, especially Alaska coastal weather, is hugely variable.