And the consequences for the 49th state’s weather are anyone’s guess.
The time may have come to get ready to say good-bye to the lovely white Christmas that settled on the Anchorage metro area, or make sure there’s plenty of fuel on hand for the snowblower.
Unpredictability is what makes winter weather entertaining for the majority of Alaskans, who occupy a habitat caught between the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean to the south and the cold bulk of a land mass that abuts the frozen Arctic Ocean to the north.
Because of those two differing forces, a lot of the weather depends on from which direction it arrives.
A weakening polar vortex at this time portends a shift in the upper atmosphere that will start the jet stream moving south to north through the Gulf bringing warm, moist air into the 49th state.
When The Blob was in play, the consequences were quite something. After the vortex faltered in January 2014 and Arctic air spilled south to put a chill on the lower 48, temperatures across Alaska skyrocketed.
The Kenai Peninsula community of Homer hit a record 57 degrees on January 27 that year.
“On the 22nd (of January) the National Weather Service calculated that Alaska, at an average temperature of 24°F, was warmer than the lower 48
states with an average of 22°F,” the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy later reported.
That was one crazy winter. Sled dog races were cancelled. Denali National Park and Preserve was closed to snowmachines in the middle of winter when most of the snow blew away. Ski races were called off. The Manatuska-Susitna Borough issued an almost unheard of winter wildfire warning.
And rain atop mountain snows brought down an apocalyptic avalanche that buried the southern end of the Richardson Highway in Keystone Canyon cutting Valdez off from the rest of the state for more than a week.
But The Blob is now gone, and the cooler water in the Gulf this December compared to the past few suggests the weather reaching the mainland might not be as warm and moist as it was in 2014.
The hope of Alaska snow-sport fans is that the result will be that any air moving south to north over the Pacific will cool enough to deliver the moisture in the form of gobs of snow.
Whether that hope becomes a reality is totally unpredictable.
The National Weather Service was today hedging its bet on the forecast for even a week out.
All that appears clear is that the jet stream is already wobbling enough to set up those pressure ridges that steer storm systems north across the Gulf.
“Each one of these systems will have the potential to bring a surge of warm air into the mainland with it,” the discussion said. “However, we will not start investigating a specific system until the models have come into better agreement….”