The United States looked to be moving toward war with Iran this week; an Alaska judge approved a petition to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy, and what were Alaskans talking about most?
The friggin cold!
South Gulf Coast Alaska, in particular, was enjoying a cold snap like it hadn’t seen in a years, and all of a sudden the National Climate Center’s winter prediction was looking like nonsense.
This is what the center’s “Winter Outlook” called for when it was issued back in October:
This is what the winter looked like around the Gulf Coast on Friday evening:
North of the Alaska Range, it simply got ugly: McGrath, minus 44; Galena, minus 36; Fairbanks, minus 35, and Fort Yukon, minus 51.
Temperatures in some low spots to which heavier cold air gravitates and pools were reported even colder. The old-fashioned thermometer of one Willow-area resident was reading 44 degrees below zero on Thursday.
It was so cold in Anchorage that Alaska Pacific University canceled practice for its junior Nordic ski team. Anchorage fat-tired cyclists – fat-bikes having become the winter in-thing in the state’s largest city – were pleading “if only it would warm up a tiny bit.”
This wasn’t supposed to happen.
Especially after the Climate Center got the start of the winter right. December in Anchorage was 5.5 degrees above normal and hit a record 51 degrees on Dec. 9, according to the National Weather Service.
Much was made of December rounding out the warmest year in the Anchorage weather record. The iceman struck the next day.
By the third day, the minimum temperature for the day was below zero and the daily temperature was 15 degrees below normal. On the fourth day, the day’s average temperature fell to below zero for the first time, and the day went a full 20 degrees below the norm.
And it’s pretty much gone on that way since. There have been a couple occasions when day-time temperatures crept above zero, but the daily average has stayed 20 to 22 degrees below normal.
The Climate Prediction Center is now saying there’s a 40 percent chance the temperatures will stay frigid through Jan. 24, but it promises a 50 to 55 percent chance of above-normal temperatures starting Jan. 25 and continuing into the first week of February when the below-normal prediction shifts to the Midwest.
“The forecast development of anomalous ridging near Alaska leads to modest probabilities favoring above-average temperatures; this stands in rather stark contrast to the bitter, anomalous cold currently gripping much of the state,” the federal agency observed. “Below-average temperatures are more likely to persist into early February only over the Alaska panhandle.”
The Center’s overall outlook is for January 2020 to end up being a cold one in the Anchorage Metro Area, a prediction that is highly likely to come true. Even if temperatures returned to normal today and stayed that way through the end of the month, the month would average out cold.
The state looks to be in the embrace of the worst cold snap in a decade. But some are enjoying it.
The University of Fairbanks-Alaska Nanook mascot was having fun throwing hot water into the air to watch it explode; yes, it cools so fast that’s what happens. And UAF students were stripping to their undies in front of the campus’s oversized outdoor temperature display in order to join the “Forty-Below Club,” a distinction they will long remember.