White spring


Winter-spring pleasures: fat-tired cyclists on the trail to Skookum Glacier on Saturday/Craig Medred photo

A bright sun was smiling on Alaska’s largest snow-covered and frozen city on Sunday as the temperature climbed to 29 degrees – nine degrees below normal for the day.

Welcome to an old-fashioned spring in the new far north.

A year after the warmest year on record, the 49th state welcomed 2020 with the coldest winter in a while, and 10 days into spring nothing seems to have changed.

The chill of 2020 keeps hanging on.

January averaged 7 degrees colder than the normal in Anchorage, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). That came as a bit of shock after a string of climate-change winters that left many adjusted to the month being more like 7 degrees warmer than normal.

The chill did fade a little in February. The month was only 1.5 degrees below the norm, according to the NWS.

Then came March to somewhat split the difference between January and February. As the month draws to an end, it is running 4.6 degrees colder, the NWS says.

The high today was 20 degrees lower than last year on the same date. The norm is 38.

This wasn’t supposed to happen in globally warming world.

All the climate models were forecasting another warmer than normal winter for the 49th state with the National Climate Center’s  “Winter Outlook” saying “the greatest likelihood for warmer-than-normal conditions…(is) in Alaska and Hawaii….”

And at the start of December that prediction looked to be spot on.

By New Year’s Day, though, there were indications the new Alaska was about to revert back to being the old Alaska.

Overnight the weather went from 45 degrees and rain to 25 degrees and snow, and then the temperature started going down, down, down. The trend hasn’t stopped since.


Not that a real winter is a bad thing in the Last Frontier where ice and snow have long been the norms. Alaskans live with something of a love-hate relationship for these conditions.

Most, like humans everywhere, don’t exactly enjoy shivering, and few – snowplow truck drivers making money off snow removal being a key exception – relish the effort required to keep driveways, sidewalks, and sometimes roofs and other areas around the home snow free in a heavy snow winter.

But snow and cold are near miraculous aids to travel in a land with few roads. Most of the communities in Alaska remain unconnected by asphalt, but in winter you can in places drive for hundreds of miles between them by snowmachine or even, sometimes, car or truck.

The ice road on the frozen Kuskokwim River has been plowed to its longest length ever: 355 miles,” KYUK, the public radio station in Bethel, Alaska, reported in February. 

“That’s longer than most traditional highways in the state, but it’s likely a bit rougher in places since that road is a frozen river.”

Bethel is a regional hub 400 miles – the distance from the nation’s capital to Cincinnati – west of Anchorage. The Alaska road system ends at Homer on south end of the Kenai Peninsula about 350 miles short of Bethel.

The ice road allowed Bethel residents for a brief time to travel the way other Americans do in heated motor vehicles instead of exposed to the weather while on the seat of a snowmachine, or what most outside of Alaska call a snowmobile.

Others parts of Alaska benefited from this travel bonanza as well, though there were those places where some thought Mother Nature over did it with snow and cold.

Alaska’s most famous winter trail was buried under so much snow that the Iditarod Trail Invitational, a human-powered race, slowed to an old-fashioned trudge, and the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race worried the same would happen to it although trail-breaking snowmachines help lessen the problem for the competitors in the Last Great Race.

Good travels

So despite the snow, 46-year-old Norwegian Thomas Wærner won the race with the fastest time in the last three years.

And with the Iditarod in the rear view mirror, the days getting long (Anchorage now has more than 13 hours of daylight), the COVID-19 pandemic putting many out of work, health officials advocating social distancing, and March conditions ideal for snow travel, Alaskans have begun spreading out across the countryside in significant numbers.

It’s not a cure for the pandemic disease, but the Vitamin D from the bright sunshine might have offer some protection. And there is the possibility such escapes could offset the nocebo effect that can generate various disease-like symptoms in some people even if they aren’t sick.

Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media,” the Centers for Disease Control warn. “Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.”

Alaska offers a lot of way to escape the news. Glaciers hard to reach in the summer appeared to be among the major attraction for many now.

East of Anchorage, people are hiking and cycling across frozen and snow-covered Portage Lake to get close to the Portage Glacier, or fat-biking, skiing and snowmachining up the Placer River to get to Skookum Glacier, an attraction normally hidden behind a near impassable jungle of alder and willow brush now buried so deep in snow as to be nearly invisible.

North of the state’s largest city, people have been using just about every imaginable means of travel to make their way up the Knik River to the Knik Glacier.

How long the easy travel will last no one knows. The weather around the Anchorage Metro area has warmed just enough to allow for some consolidation of the snowpack.

The snow softens in the heat of the day and then refreezes at night. In such condtions, morning snow can exist as something like white pavement until it begins to warm again beneath the midday sun.

Little warming is forecast through the end of March, however. The high on Monday is expected to reach 30 with the temperature climbing to the freezing point on Tuesday. 

Night-time temperatures are expected to stay in the single digits and teens until April when some new snow moves in.






11 replies »

  1. By cherry picking weather data and manufacturing temperature readings NOAA, NASA, NWS and other government agencies have done a great job of ” hiding the decline.” After this winter their job just got a lot harder trying to brainwash the world.

  2. Has the Global Warming slowed these past few months with no airplanes flying, no cruise sbips crusing, no cars on the road, no gas a pumping, etc..? Are we saved from “Climate Change” now?

  3. The Maunder Minimum or “Little Ice Age”

    Times of depressed solar activity seem to correspond with times of global cold in history. The most famous example is the “Little Ice Age.”

    Between 1645 and 1715—during what we now call the “Maunder Minimum” or “Little Ice Age”—sunspots were exceedingly rare.

    Specifically, there were only about 50 sunspots (instead of the usual 40 to 50 thousand) and harsh winters.

    For 70 years, temperatures dropped by 1.8 to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Seven decades of freezing weather led to shorter seasons and ultimately food shortages.

    Conversely, times of increased solar activity have corresponded with global warming. During the 12th and 13th centuries, the Sun was active, and the European climate was quite mild.

    What Solar Cycle Are We In Now?

    Record-keeping of solar cycles began in 1755 with Solar Cycle 1. We are now nearing the end of Solar Cycle 24, approaching the solar minimum and the start of Solar Cycle 25.

    By solar minimum, we mean the lowest number of sunspots. After some years of high activity, the Sun will ramp down with fewer sunspots or almost no sunspots. The temperature cools.

    Conversely, solar maximum is the highest number of sunspots in any given cycle. A new cycle starts with a “solar maximum” littered with solar storms and sunspots. The temperature warms.

    Remember all the ice covering North America melted without man’s “help”.

  4. I have been enjoying recreating from home the last few days, but Governor Dunleavy’s “travel ban” has me a bit disturbed.
    This is not constitutional and there is precedent that Americans are allowed to travel freely (under their own discretion) no matter what the emergency is at hand.
    Other govenors in America are saying they cannot prevent citizens traveling between states, the why are we told that non essential travel is banned?
    Trump won’t implement a travel ban cause he knows it is wrong.
    “The right to travel is fundamentally tied to our conception of what it means to be a citizen of a nation…
    As the Supreme Court recognized more than 170 years ago, “we are one people with one common country. We are all citizens of the United States, and as members of the same community must have the right to pass and repass through every part of it without interruption, as freely as in our own states.”
    The right of all US citizens to travel freely among the states, the Court later explained in United States v. Guest(1966), “was conceived from the beginning to be a necessary concomitant of the stronger union the Constitution created.”

    • Steve, I have to agree with you to a certain degree. Watching the news and I just saw MD issued a “Shelter-in-Place” and it mentioned they had 1,000 or so cases of the Corona. So, I guess that means roughly 800 are mild cases. I just looked it up, MD has 6 million residents. Is a “Shelter-in-Place” warranted? Doubt it. Does MD stand to make billions off the taxpayer? Yep!!!
      This reminds me of “Global Warming”. “We’re all going to die” and when will we know it is safe to come out of our holes?

      • Bryan,
        It amazes me that New York one of the most liberal states in the Union stands up to travel bans which Cumo equates with “starting a civil war” yet conservative states (with low population density) are first in line to take away our Liberties?
        Americans have a history of helping one another in crisis and need to move about to accomplish this greater good.
        Social distancing, masks, gloves, hand disinfectant and not touching your face will keep you safe.
        We see hospital workers in gowns, gloves and mask…yet our government says “masks will not help”?
        In these times we need Independent thought more than ever…our government was never founded to protect us from ourselves…
        I actually think Trump is playing it cool and taking it day by day (which is better than allowing the WHO/CDC panic predictions to lead our country off the martial law cliff).

      • Steve, it is funny, I got back from China a few months back. Granted, we have seen one party amd media sympathetic to the Chinese government, but that is to be expected. What strikes me odd is I feel like I am back in China, masks, cameras everywhere, this or that, etc.. Sadly, we will become more and more like them through technology and government control.

      • Crust season rocks. I consider myself very fortunate that my most difficult decision these days is whether to skate ski or bike in the direction of the sun-drenched Kenai Mountains. The dogs don’t care which I choose, they just want to run in the sun across the lake. I give thanks every day for living where I do. My neighbor stopped by this morning and asked if I needed any moose, salmon, or canned goods. Who cares what the government says? We will get by. Even thrive. Because this is what we prepared for. Some of us, anyway.

      • Steve,
        CBS News admitted to a “mistake” on Monday after airing footage of an overcrowded hospital room that was allegedly in New York City but was actually from a hospital in Italy.

        “It was an editing mistake. We took immediate steps to remove it from all platforms and shows,” a CBS News spokesperson told Fox News.

        Last Wednesday, “CBS This Morning” included a brief clip showing several patients and medical professionals in one room during a report about the rising threat of the coronavirus outbreak in New York City.

        However, that same footage aired days prior on Sky News.

    • Steve,

      Even in the article you linked to it says that these are being worded in such a way that they will likely pass any challenge. The problem is that people nowadays are so stupid they need some authority to tell them to stay away from sick people and that we need to practice basic hygiene. In other words people, even before basic hygiene was invented knew enough to keep the sick away and quarantined during plagues, they didn’t need government to tell them not to lick door knobs…or worse yet toilet seats. All of these mandates are because we have too many stupid people out there doing too many stupid things during a global pandemic.

      I have yet to see anyone give a solid reason for how these mandates are unconstitutional. Your freedom to do what you want ends when it impacts others freedoms, and if you are a threat to entire communities asking that you quarantine for a couple weeks isn’t really asking all that much.

      We should remember that our government asks that we don’t kill our neighbors and we are trusted to not do so, but we will suffer the consequences if we do. There is very little difference between these mandates and all of the gun laws around the nation with cooling off periods, our government is saying hey just don’t kill each other please.

    • Why ANY stupid sloe eyed M*F’er would get on a G*D* jet for roundtrip ANYWHERE outside of state borders for the last 1.5 months just smacks of complete idiocy,and obvious sign of imbreeding, what stupid self centered M*F ‘ers

      Jesus M*F’ing Christ!

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