Snow was falling heavily again in Alaska’s largest metro area on Monday to torment those who confuse weather and climate.
Blame the local newspaper.
There is a time-worn adage in journalism that if you write about how nice the weather, the weather is sure to turn to crap. Newspapers might have lost a lot of their punch in the age of the internet, but obviously some things haven’t changed.
“March records for warm weather across Alaska were ‘obliterated’ this year,” the Anchorage Daily News headlined on April 3 with the ground largely bare from sea level to 1,500 feet in the Chugach Mountains above the city.
Those familiar with the area’s climate knew better than to let their hopes get too high. Those swayed by weather were digging out the golf clubs and fishing gear.
On the very same day, however, KTVA.com appeared to foresee the future.
“Despite snowfall in April being rare and our abnormally warm temperatures in March, it’s still important to remember that snow isn’t out of the realm of possibilities this month,” their weather reporters wrote.
“After several days of sunshine and warmth, slightly cooler air is filtering back into Southcentral. This, combined with a series of upper-level disturbances, could bring Anchorage the best shot of snow since February as we head into the weekend.”
They were right. Snow flurries started the next day, but the return of real winter waited about 10 days. It started snowing on April 15 and then just kind of kept on snowing.
April became April
The change is not a freak event. The amount of precipitation for April is above normal, but it fell as snow instead of rain because early April temperatures started trending back to normal and then transitioned to perfectly normal at mid-month.
This might not have seemed so shocking if not for a March more like a warm April leading many to expect May to come a month early.
“The last few early springs might have lulled us into a false sense of normalcy, coupled with those couple nice weeks that led us to believe the good stuff was just around the bend,” lamented cyclist Mike Hancock.
Like others, he was ready to hit the roads when the snow arrived like a big, white turd.
Down in the Anchorage Bowl, accumulations varied. In many places the snow melted off after it fell, but on the Hillsides above the city accumulations in places went from nothing to 15 inches in a matter of days.
Skiers were happy. Cyclists anxious for the warm months put the road bikes away and dug out the fat-tired bikes again. Hikers reached for the snowshoes. Drivers who had taken off their studded tires early cursed.
And, of course, there were some that didn’t seem to mind at all:
The National Weather Service was expecting normal to continue, but that’s not such a bad thing. A normal April marks the start of a steadily warming run into May.
The official forecast called for the snow to end by Wednesday with the skies clearing and the temperature rising to near 45 degrees. That is largely expected to continue through the week with the temperature into the high 40s to 50 by the weekend.
Climate normal for that date in Anchorage is a high of 52 degrees and a low of 35.