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Maybe in May

 

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Lars soaks up some sun after a long, chilly winter/Craig Medred photo

Coming off the warmest year in Alaska history, the 49th state’s largest city has now racked up four months in a row with average temperatures below normal, according to National Weather Service data.

April, which saw clear days and sunshine break the back of the cold that settled over the north in late December, came close to moving temperatures back toward climate-change expectations, but came up 0.2 degrees short of normal.

That was, however, a big improvement on January’s near 11-degree departure from the 1981-2010 average the NWS defines as normal. It was the coldest January in years after a string of mild winters in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 that left residents of the state’s urban heartland believing a kinder, gentler, “new normal” might have arrived in the age of global warming.

The early spring of 2016.

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May in April/Craig Medred photo

The snow-be-gone December of 2017.

snow short

Lars lamenting the lack Christmas-season skijoring/Craig Medred photo

The rainy January of 2018.

alyeska rain

The slopes of the Alyeska Resort/Alyeska photo

The soggy end of 2019.

Global warming

No, this does not mean global warming is a fraud. Space technology has gotten very good at tracking the overall temperature of the planet in recent decades, and the broader evidence supports a global temperature increase of about 2 degrees since 1880.

But it’s easy to lose 2 degrees in the huge, annual variability of weather in the 49th state. Since 1930, the annual, average, Alaska tempratures have ranged from more than 5 degrees below the norm to more than 5 degrees above the norm.

Even if  the NWS readjusts temperature “normal” upward a degree or two in 2021 to reflect a new, warmer 1991-2020 norm, the climate record would indicate the state could still easily get a winter three to four degrees below the existing norm.

mean temp

Global cooling

Anchorage witnessed its most frigid winters in late 1970s. The period is generally remembered as colder than hell.

The record annual temperature set last year was 42.5 degrees. The 1972 average was 31.9 degrees. A better than 10.5 degree annual swing is the difference between Minneapolis in the“Bold North”and Portland in the evergreen Pacific Northwest.

Reactions of Anchorage Metro residents to the warm and smoky summer of 2019 when forests were in flames north and south of the city appeared mixed. Some relished the warm, albeit smoky, lower-48 style weather. Others fretted over the the threat of climate change.

A record 49 days topped 70 degrees, the long time yardstick for a measuring warm summers in Anchorage. The average summer brings about a third as many. Some summer have had almost none.

Now, even if Anchorage were to go the year without hitting 70 degrees, the two-year average would remain well above the longterm average.

The national Climate Prediction Center is saying there is a high probability that Alaska, especially Southwest Alaska, will see above normal temperatures again this summer. Back in October, the Center was offering the same prediction for the first months of 2020.

That prediction missed badly. What will come to pass this summer only time will truly tell.

The state has been on nearly two-decade long run of warmth. The historical record would indicate the weather is due to cycle cold at some point though it is unclear in the moment how much anyone would notice.

Forgotten issue

The once hot subject of climate has largely fallen out of the news with the global pandemic raging, but over the longterm of human history climate has been as important to world events as disease.

The Medevial Warm Period launched the Viking Age that saw the Norsemen storming out of Scanadavia to terrorize much of Europe for centuries, launch forays into Asia and colonize Greeland and North America.

The Little Ice Age that followed centuries later reordered the world in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries. As agricutlure collapsed, a centuries old, feudal order of lords and serfs “was overturned,” observed John Lanchester in the New Yorker. “At first, there were panics and uprisings, food riots and rebellions, and a spike in witch trials – because, in a pre-scientific world, the idea that witches were responsible for failing harvests made as much sense as any other explanation.

“Over time, however, larger structural shifts emerged. In the basic bargain of feudal life, a peasant kept one part of his harvest for himself, put one part back into the ground for the next year’s harvest, and gave the last part to his feudal lord. When peasants had no surplus grain, this system collapsed. If local crops were failing, trading at a distance, to bring goods from farther afield, was critical. Money, and the ability to buy and sell with cash or its equivalent, took on a larger role. Cities with a culture of trade especially benefitted from this shift.”

Thus began a shift from rural to urban life that has continued to this day despite periodic pandemcis that made clear the safety inherent in social distancing long before the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 evolved.

What SARS-CoV-2 will mean for the future of humanity is anyone’s guess. To date, as global economies stall and those still at work do so from home, emissions of hydrocarbon-linked greenhouse gases are plummeting.

The International Energy Agency is projecting global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for the year will be “almost 8 percent lower than in 2019. This would be the lowest level since 2010. Such a reduction would be the largest ever, six times larger than the previous record reduction of 0.4 gigatons in 2009 due to the financial crisis and twice as large as the combined total of all previous reductions since the end of World War II.”

Whether that will continue is an unknown. It is possible the combination of the pandemic and the internet could reshape the world in ways in which climate has in the past by sparking an emmigration to smaller, more spaced out communities from which people can work remotely.

It is equally possible that humans, being social animals, figure out a way to live with SARS-CoV-2 the way they found a way to live with HIV and cling to their beehive ways.

Predicting the future decades in advance is even harder than forecasting the weather tomorrow, and despite the mountain of science that nows aids assists those forecasts, the meterologists still regularly get it wrong.

For the record, the official NWS forecast for today calls for partly sunny skies and a high in the mid- to low-50s. The normal value is 51.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 replies »

  1. One positive from COVID is the lack of ink being spilled on “global warming, LGBTQLMNOP, Baby It’s Cold Outside apoplexy, ANTIFA, BLM, etc.

  2. I have no doubt that the earth has warmed 2 degrees since the 1800’s, that was after all the end of the little ice age. So starting from the most recent cool period having 2 degrees of warming shouldn’t surprise anyone.

    One thing this global shutdown has shown regarding climate and the human impact on it, is how precious little of an impact we actually have. Within weeks of the shutdown skies cleared up around the globe, animals wandered through cities, the canals in Venice ran clear…weeks with a limited shutdown and somehow mother Gaia was able to heal herself, amazing. I haven’t noticed the change here in Alaska because our limited to nonexistent industry and our environmental laws that outsourced our industry, but in places like India and China and to a lesser extent in Europe there was a pretty massive cleaning of the environment in a few short weeks. Maybe outsourcing our pollution to other countries isn’t a good idea when they have little or no environmental regulations? Maybe keeping manufacturing and production in our country is something we have thought of before we destroyed other countries environment all so we can buy cheap face masks and rubber gloves to protect us from the place we buy our cheap environmentally unfriendly goods?

    Anyways, hopefully we will get some rain soon or this fire season will be another rough one.

  3. Any body else growing skeptical of the models that scientists use for the dire climate change predictions? I hope they studied at a different university than the modelers and scientists who have been giving us info on the corona virus. Just a few short months ago, scientists at Imperial College said 2.2 million Americans will die during this pandemic. Scientists also told Cuomo he needed 130k ventilators in NY. The list is long of inaccurate “science” during the current crisis. That begs the question, how confident can we be about climate predictions? I’m not a denier, just a skeptic with a bit of common sense.

  4. Just remember it was not FDR’s “new deal” that pulled the U.S. out of the last great depression, it was world war 2 that drafted 10 million Americans against their will.
    Russia is currently stockpiling wheat and ending exports while the lower 48 sees mile long lines of cars waiting to get their free boxes of food.
    How long will the supply chain hold up under these conditions?
    Alaska has less Covid cases than a single rural country in Pennsylvania, yet the medical community insists that there is a grave emergency at hand?
    Unfortunately it looks like the tribalism that divides us has no end in sight and the “power elites” will use this crisis to implement more and more surveillance for the population, while they continue to strip us of our civil liberties.

  5. Thank god “Global Warming” ended with the Covid – no planes, trains, or automobiles..we’re saved with everybody safely back in their caves.
    Don’t have to listen to that nonsense and fraud any longer. Wahoo!!

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