hot lars

Lars sucks up the sun at Rabbit Lake in the Chugach Mountains above Anchorage where the ice has been known to linger until mid-July in some years/Patricia Browing photo

An unusually warm June in Alaska has glaciers melting so fast that they have in places destroyed the salmon fishing.

Mark Hem in the tiny community of Chitina in the east-central part of the state reported the Copper River near flood stage on June 30 just days before he announced his business – Hem Charters – was shutting down for a week because high water made the river’s popular dipnet fishery dangerous.

One man died earlier this year after falling off a ledge along the river and being swept away in the always fast, muddy current. Dipnetting is a 49th state tradition that dates back thousands of years to when the first Athabascan Indians discovered they could weave nets of spruce roots or sinew, attach them to long poles, and dip salmon out of the waters of silt-laden glacial rivers.

Today the nets are made of nylon with handles and hoops of aluminum, but the fishing technique remains the same. And strong runs of Chinook (king) and sockeye (red) salmon to the Copper have produced good early season catches for dipnetters.

But the unusual run of warm, sunny weather most residents have been enjoying is now putting a damper on the resident-only fishery.

Temperatures across much of the state were in the 80s, which USA Today on Monday categorized as “scorching” though the state has seen much warmer.

The state-record high of 100 degrees was set in June 1915 in Fort Yukon, a Central Alaska community of 600 people living miles north of the Arctic Circle. The surrounding Yukon River flats are the only place on the globe where such high temperatures have been recorded in the Arctic, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Fort Yukon’s climate is like something from another planet with its 178-degree swing from temperatures that climb as high as 100 degrees in summer and drop to as low as 78 degrees below zero in winter.

Global warming?

The Alaska hot streak has inevitably fired up global-warming fears although the temperatures of the moment are way, way above the averages predicted by any climate-change models.

Still, the state has seen a significant climate shift in the last few years. Alaska witnessed its warmest year in 2016 and 2018 came second, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). So far 2019 is following the trend.

The National Weather Service reported Anchorage, the state’s largest city, witnessed its warmest, driest June ever, and the month added to a run of 16 that have now ended with average temperatures above the norm – sometimes significantly above the norm.

The June 2019 average temperature of 69.1 degrees was more than 6 degrees above normal, the agency reported, even though the monthly high temperature of 82 degrees was 3 degrees short of a record set in 1969 and trailed the records for 2015 and 2016.

High temperatures on 12 days hit 70 degrees or more, according to weather service records. Only 11 years ago, Anchorage went the entire summer with only two days – a sixth of those of this June – warming to or above 70 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

Alaska weather is prone to huge variations that appear to be driven in significant part by what is happening in the atmosphere above the polar ice cap where spins the “polar vortex.”

“It sounds like it could be some sort of alien death-ray or an extremely powerful washing machine,” NOAA says on its website, but it’s really just a broad expanse of cold, low-pressure air that tends to stay parked over the sea ice.

It is best known for its winter antics when – as NOAA observes – it can weaken and “send cold air southward” to turn the country’s heartland bitter cold.

“Normally, when the vortex is strong and healthy, it helps keep a current of air known as the jet stream traveling around the globe in a pretty circular path. This current keeps the cold air up north and the warm air down south,” the agency says.

“But without that strong low-pressure system, the jet stream doesn’t have much to keep it in line. It becomes wavy and rambling. Put a couple of areas of high-pressure systems in its way, and all of a sudden you have a river of cold air being pushed down south along with the rest of the polar vortex system.”

Arctic oscillation

Alaskans are well familiar with what happens when the polar vortex falters in winter: High-pressure air settles along the U.S. West Coast to form a barrier shiting the normally west-to-east flow of the jet stream more north and south.

As a result, weather systems passing near Hawaii in the tropics can end up getting pushed north into Alaska. They cool off along the way, but they still arrive packing a lot of warm, moist air as they did in March of this year when April seemed to have arrived a month early.

Elsewhere in the country, it was the opposite. “Glancing blow of Polar Vortex will bring another blast of deep arctic cold to smother Michigan,” MLive Michigan headlined at the time.

Usually, the vortex is more stable in the summer, and the so-called Arctic oscillation – that punch of cold air south – isn’t as extreme. Not this year, however.

Judah Cohen, a visiting scientist at MIT’s Parsons Lab, is an expert on the polar vortex and associated arctic oscillation, but he admits he doesn’t know what is going on at the moment.

“Now we are in late June,” he wrote in his last blog post, “and there are still no signs of the positive tropospheric polar cap geopotential heights (PCHs) waning and disappearing.  In fact, the high latitude blocking predicted for late June is impressive for any time of year but especially for the summer.  And with the warm/positive tropospheric PCHs continuing to show strong persistence, it is still not obvious to me what other than synoptic or internal variability can reverse the warm/positive PCHs to cold/negative PCHs.

“I feel that the probability of a summer characterized by a negative AO and warm tropospheric PCHs has only increased. A negative AO/NAO and Greenland blocking continue to favor seasonable to cool temperatures in the Northeastern US and Western Europe.”

Translation? The polar vortex has lost control of the atmosphere; the disruptions in the jet stream will continue; and more cold, polar air will leak north into the mid-continental U.S. while warm, tropical Pacific air is pulled north into Alaska.

Cohen’s temperature predictions have Central Alaska painted red, for hot, for most of July and nearly all of Alaska painted pink, for warm.

So pon’t put the shorts away just yet. Go buy some more sunscreen. And take care of the pets.

Warm weather in Alaska is notorious for causing heat stroke (hyperthermia) in dogs. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race warns mushers to be on the lookout for it any time the temperature climbs above zero because dog produce a lot of heat while running.

 “Astoundingly, muscular exertion may increase metabolic heat production by as much as 60 fold,” writes Iditarod veterinarian Stuart Nelson. “Development of life-threatening hyperthermia is our greatest temperature-related medical concern.”

Large-breed dogs that have yet to thermoregulate their metabolism to adjust to warm weather are very vulnerable, and the faster they move the more vulnerable they become.














38 replies »

  1. Nicest summer ever ! It’s about time ! I’m tired of all the wet . Gardens will go crazy ! Ladies will enjoy the sun and my old knees will hopefully get better. Enjoy every glorious sun ray . 50 below is right around the corner! Alaska land of extremes – I love it! So nice !

  2. “So in Alaska, climate change has set a vicious cycle in motion. The warmer the temperature, the drier the summer – and so, the greater the risk of forest fires, which then release ever more carbon dioxide. Worse still, the increasingly frequent fires damage and diminish the surface layer of soil, which provides vital insulation…”

    “The challenge for the last 12 to 15 years has been an increasing frequency of large fire years,” says Kent Slaughter, director of the Alaska Fire Service.

    • It’s worth noting that years of overzealous firefighting efforts have lead to forests loaded with fuel, which makes for larger more destructive fires. Fortunately it seems that some in the firefighting community are finally coming around to the fact that fire is a part of a healthy forest. We will see many large fires for years to come, until these overloaded and dangerous forests are allowed to return to the natural equilibrium that was in place before man decided fire bad. Or we could log these forests and monetize a dangerous situation making it both safe and profitable.

      • Steve o very well said . I worked as a wildland firefighter / helitack crewmember for many many years . There were often hundreds of fires per year during that time . Nothing has really changed just more drama people. Alaska has always had huge destructive fires . If anything the fires have been less so in real recent times . You hit nail on the head as far as material loading the forest as well as the benifit fires are to the ecology/ forests . There needs to be better management, more intensive harvests and controlled burns. I think the most destructive interface fire we have recently had was millers reach . That was almost 1/4 century ago . Fires are often just human error such as recent fire in willow. Idiot with unattended fire/ maybe some fireworks. Millers reach was definitely human error . Combination of fireworks/ pot heads as leaders of the type two crew refused to stay and fight till it was out then disorganized usage of all the state wide fire crews , and failed back fire combined with heavy wind dry conditions. I got some good burns from that fire . Lots of heads lost their jobs . It wasn’t climate change . It was 100% human error . Even the natives in lower 48 used to be smart enough to purposely set fires occasionally to reduce fuel loading and freshen up the forests for animals. Only fools use fireworks in hot dry weather. I truly simpathize anyone who looses their home to a fire . Forestry is putting more focus on interface firefighting and suppression of fires near structures. Letting the big fires burn in unpopulated areas gives the impression of bigger more devastating fires but that is only used by uneducated people with an agenda. Planning and management can eliminate most forest fires in populated areas and greatly reduce damage to structures . As to “weather changes” yep they change all the time – back and forth . Anyone notice Fairbanks is not especially hot ? One place gets hot another doesn’t. For myself as a life long Alaskan I truly enjoy the hot weather, it’s a treat I might not see again right away. Lots of families are having a blast ! Enjoy it while we can before fall rains come . All hail the mighty sun !

      • Opinion,
        Not sure where you get your facts for a statement like:  “If anything the fires have been less so in real recent times”
        2004 was worst year on record in AK for amount of acres burned.
        2015 was next largest amount burned on record in AK.
        The article I referenced above states:
        “Two of the largest fire years were in 2004 – and then this year,” Slaughter told DW, in terms of acres burned. He says in June, more than 70 new fires were flaring up each day. Altogether, more than 5 million acres burned, making it the second-worst year for fires in Alaskan history.”
        “Rupp says a single bad year like this one could release CO2 accumulated over more than a decade into the atmosphere in a single season.”

      • Steve – when information is wielded by people with an agenda it can be twisted to color any situation. Especially if they don’t know what’s really going on . I’m not saying you have a bad agenda. Your agenda is pro earth- so it’s a good agenda. The problem is you don’t understand the policy shift in Alaska forestry . They have started taking the option of letting big remote fires burn . That racks up the acreage but not the “destruction” as Steve o refers to . Destruction in firefighters mind or insurance companies mind is damaged structures or lives . It was a misplaced word . As I argue fires can be growth inducive . Very natural process. Now as to mr slaughter- he’s a talking head . When I was in buisness I never even knew his name . I was in fairly tight . Still am to some degree due to very knowledgeable relations. When you claim mr slaughter says increasing frequency of large fires is the problem- he only states part of the fact . If it’s true we have increased frequency. My memory tells me otherwise. 70 fires a day used to happen . For many many reason, lawns burn barrels on and on . The fact is forestry is allowing the fires to become larger due to policy shift . They quit fighting the remote fires and shifted more to observation. Except when structures are threatened. If you are in with the people who know you would understand the Balance . The shift has been to fight fire more aggressively when it is threatening human life or structures and alow big ones to burn . ( Interface)This is what I’m told . Twisting some facts to meet ideas is unscientific. Though I understand it may be for an honorable cause . Just misleading due to not understanding the full picture.

      • Opinion,
        I will accept that you misspoke a bit on your claim that : “If anything the fires have been less so in real recent times”..
        Since you say : “It was a misplaced word .”
        I will not defend that I care about our environment and community as I have already recovered from one devastating fire here in the Valley.
        With that said, my experience goes beyond Alaska when I was involved in forestry projects in Yosemite…manly thinning regrowth (of a mono culture) out of a past burn site.
        The “A rock” fire in Yosemite was in early 90’s and is still the 2nd largest in the Park’s history at around 18,000 acres…hundreds of structures burned since this was mostly residential areas outside of the Valley.
        Anyways, my point is that fire does not always make an ecosystem more healthy after is burns through.
        What we saw after the “A rock fire” was the dominant Conifer’s took over the burned earth and the monoculture of small firs needed aggressive thinning for years to come to keep residents safe.
        After 12 years of working as an Arborist in Alaska, I can see we are in for a similar path.
        Black spruce areas left un excavated after burns will regrow more black spruce over the years…we see that around Sockeye Fire already.
        Many areas near Miller Reach have done just that, hence aggressive thinning will be needed to keep residents safe in the face of our warming climate.

  3. Around 1,000 years ago the glaciers had recorded to the point they are today. Either that or trees grow under glaciers thus tells us a number of things. The first is that climate changes all the time, another is that Alaska was as warm or warmer than it was now approximately 1,000 years ago (this is well before the industrial revolution), and yet another is that after this warming period around 1,000 years ago Alaska cooled off preserving these trees under slabs of ice. Since most anthropogenic global warming true believers reference data sets starting in the 1950’s to the 1970’s, when we were in a cooler cycle, they naturally skew the data when saying Alaska is warming. Of course it is warmer in Alaska now than when we were in the most recent cooler climate cycle, we are also warmer now than we were during the last ice age, and we aren’t as warm as we were during the Eemian or last ice interglacial period.

    • It is a cult of the stupid and easily manipulated. Their powers to be steal their money and feast on caviar while brainwashing their delusional, gullible, naive minds with lies. Really scary how stupid half the country really is.

      • The really amazing part is that these religious zealots will just disregard science while claiming they are following science. This recent warm spell is a prime example, they tell us this is evidence of anthropogenic global warming and it is all man’s fault. But when the winter that just passed is used as an example, where there were records being set all over the eastern part of our country, they will tell us you can’t use a single example of weather to disprove anthropogenic global warming.

        We have been in this current t iterglacial period for anywhere from 11,000 to 17,000 years and the interglacial periods typically last 20,000 years. So we are either in the middle or late middle stages of previous interglacial periods. Have you ever noticed that typically as summer goes on it gets warmer? The same type of thing happens in interglacials the warmth tends to build up it doesn’t come on all at once.

  4. What? You mean it isnt “Global Warming after all”????
    “A strong area of high pressure has been nearly stationary and baking portions of southern Alaska recently, and it will gradually expand northward through this weekend and into next week,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Ryan Adamson said.

    Highs will average 10 to 20 F above normal for this time of the year.

    The normal high temperature in Anchorage during early July is 65 F. Highs in the 80s will continue across Anchorage through at least Monday.”

  5. Believe what you want to believe. Whatever makes you less anxious. I believe technology is constantly advancing at an incredible pace. The untold story is technology has already increased our efficiency by 25%. Our efficiency is continuing to increase. Coal is our unending resource and I am confident that CO2 sequestration will ultimately be the solution.

  6. “The June 2019 average temperature of 69.1 degrees was more than 6 degrees above normal…”
    and to think that the Dunleavy administration does not believe in climate change…

    • Are you sure the administration doesn’t believe in climate change or do they not believe in anthropogenic global warming? They are different things and even if people wish to confuse the two as the same thing, they are not.

      • “How ironic is it then that just as open water has taken over a large part of the Bering Sea, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy overturned a state effort to better position the state to respond to climate change in an orderly fashion.
        Dunleavy canceled an effort started in late 2017 by former Gov. Bill Walker to find “innovative solutions to the challenges of a rapidly changing climate, informed by the best available science and technology, integration of indigenous and local knowledge, and consideration of Alaska’s economic interests.”

      • Steve,

        Using pretty much anything that Walker did as an example of what to do is starting from a bad place and should be avoided at all costs. The very fact that he paid a person from the lower 48 a six figure income to lead his anthropogenic global warming committee and covered flights and lodging when she would bother to step foot in this state, should tell any reasonable person what the committee was actually about, money and power. The failed anthropogenic global warming committee of the failed Walker Administration never was about a changing climate, it was only about pushing the leftist agenda. And just like the effort trying to confuse the terms climate change and anthropogenic global warming, it was nothing more than smoke and mirrors designed to make money and gather power

      • “…it was nothing more than smoke and mirrors designed to make money and gather power.”
        Sounds a lot like the “person” Dunleavy hired to do our budget and cut services for Alaskans…
        If U recall Steve, she also fits your description of “The very fact that he paid a person from the lower 48 a six figure income…”
        Seems like a double standard to me?
        Dropping the ball on climate change planning is a bad leadership move and ALL the fires in our communities are just one of the consequences of a dryer and hotter climate that is here to stay in the North.

      • There is an astoundingly massive difference between relocating to a new state for a job and flying once every other month for a day or two on an all expense paid trip, you see the difference right?

      • Steve,
        If this person of the Climate Action Committee was such a concern to the new administration, could they not be replaced by someone in state willing to take on the responsibility?
        Your argument seems like a classic “strawman” since the program was completely cancelled and all prior documents were “scrubbed” from the state website…
        As we have seen in the last year, many people are replaced and yet the integrity of the programs has been kept.
        As far as the new “Outside Budget Director” ….not only we she hired by several other states to do the exact “austerity measures” , but she was also the highest paid new employee in the entire state at $195,000 a year….with free plane rides back to her real home.
        Seems like a waste of money to me since she has yet to could up with 1 potential new revenue stream for the state….and from what I learned in accounting, revenue is an important part of the budget.
        Don’t you agree!

      • Once again you fail to understand what a strawman argument is, or what my argument is for that matter. You keep confusing terms, whether purposely on not. Climate change and anthropogenic global warming are not the same thing. Bill Walker was a horrible and failed governor, his anthropogenic global warming committee was a sham. There is no reason to replace the head of the committee when the committee should not exist.

        Looking at the budget from a revenue generating perspective has been done by the aforementioned failed administration of Bill Walker, he pretty much tried to tax any and everything he could in this state. Thankfully he was only able to enact a few, the biggest one was the PFD tax he instituted on all Alaskans. Revenue isn’t the problem, spending is the problem, as in the state is spending too much money.

      • Steve,
        You say (regarding the climate action committee):
        “There is no reason to replace the head of the committee when the committee should not exist.”

        “Places with a high temp of 89°F today:
        Anchorage Intl. AP
        Key West Intl AP
        Gallup, NM
        Joplin, MO
        Frankfort, KY
        Buffalo, NY”
        by Brian Brettschneider

        Go back and read my comments…I never mentioned “Anthropogenic Global Warming”…
        regardless of the causes of our warming planet, a viable plan forward is important to the safety of residents (think of all the wildfires throughout the state) and the maintaining of our economy…apparently you and the administration do not see any concern when Alaska and Key West have the SAME temperature on the 4th of July…

      • “How the climate crisis could change fire season in Alaska and strain nationwide resources…
        In general in Alaska, springs have come earlier, summers appear to be slightly warmer and drier. That has fueled a lot of the increase in burn severity,” said Adrian Rocha, an ecologist studying the effects of wildfires in northern Alaska at the University of Notre Dame…
        According to Rocha, the signs point to the possibility of “a really bad fire year.”

      • Steve,

        While we are re-reading each others word, it is very apparent you failed to read mine…”Are you sure the administration doesn’t believe in climate change or do they not believe in anthropogenic global warming? They are different things and even if people wish to confuse the two as the same thing, they are not.”

      • News flash, Steve, the climate changes and has done so throughout the history of the world.

  7. Scientifically speaking the reason for this is due to the fact that it isn’t as cold as it was previously.

  8. El Nino started in 2015 and continues to this day (“Alaska witnessed its warmest year in 2016 and 2018 came second, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). So far 2019 is following the trend..”). Imagine that. Did you say record heat in 1969? I couldn’t even imagine being in one’s mind and waking to a warm sunny day and believing it is “Global Warming”. Must take a lot of Prozac. Because, I was around in 1969 and guess what, it is just another sunny day of many to me. Seems I am lucky and haven’t died from “Global Warming” yet…..

    • Hi Bryan,
      Didn’t find any evidence of an El Nino from 2015 – current. Google told me this though…. ‘Since late April 2018, sea surface temperatures across much of the east-central tropical Pacific returned to neutral levels following the La Niña of 2017-18. … While there is a small chance of El Niño development, re-emergence of La Niña can be practically ruled out’
      Looks like your data might be wrong about a 4 year El Nino. It is nice outside though. Time to go to work.

      • A strong El Niño event has been affecting weather around the globe, and it will continue to do so through Northern Hemisphere winter 2015–2016 according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. El Niño can have a wide variety of effects including lowering or raising temperatures, increasing or decreasing precipitation, extending or reducing drought conditions, enhancing or lowering risk for tropical cyclones, and increasing the potential for coral bleaching.

      • Welp, I dug deeper….
        Looks like ’14-’15 was a ‘weak’ El Nino event, ’15-’16 was a ‘very strong’ event and ’18-’19 was a ‘weak’ event. However, the years ’16-’18 are classified as La Nina events, which are a cooling of the Pacific Ocean in front of Chile and Equator.
        NOAA shows the same info:
        I know that KTVA and ADN are highly reputable ‘news’ organizations (that actually HURT to write that statement!), however, as someone once said to me, ‘dig deeper’ ;>)
        I’m not thinking that the ‘sky is falling’ regarding the weather, I’m thinking that the sky is falling when smart people are using false info pushed about in a cavalier manner claiming that they are facts. If I wanted that, I’d watch the ‘news’.
        Happy ‘Murica Day everyone – I’m celebrating by being an industrious, capitalist pig and going to work to make that paper!. I hope that you celebrate in the manner that best fits you – that’s what this country is about – right?

      • Jack, Alaska has been dealing with a strong el Nino pattern for 5 yrs now. So, take comfort in knowing the sky isn’t falling.

      • Sorry Bryan, my response is above this thread. Still can’t figure out how to follow basic instructions – I guess my 3rd grade teacher was right all along.

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