Old normal


The November sun sets over a chilly Alaska Whoville/Craig Medred photo

While most of the United States was this year zigging into the fourth warmest November in recorded history, Alaska – or at least the most populated part of it – was zagging back to normal.

Blame the “little girl” – La Nina – or maybe a strengthening polar vortex. 

The former is the current that sometimes brings cool waters from deep in the Pacific Ocean surging north along the West Coast of North America. The latter is the swirl of air around the north pole as the planet spins on its never-ending journey through space.

With Alaska coming off its warmest year on record in 2019, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrtion’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction center was going with La Nina to shift the weather back closer to normal this year while Judah Cohen, an authority on the polar vortex and the Arctic oscillation at weather consultancy called Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER) was warning the polar vortex (PV) was looking a lot like 2011.

“There was no significant weakening of the PV that winter and North America was very mild that winter,” he observed, and coastal Alaska got bombed with snow.

By the time that winter was over, Anchorage had measured a record 133 inches – or about 11 feet – of the white stuff. 

So far this year, there has been no replay, but the state’s urban core has edged away from the mild weather of the best several falls toward a normal normal, according to the National Weather Service.

November 2020 was, in fact, about as close to normal as normal gets around the head of Cook Inlet, the 180-mile long finger of the Pacific that laps at the doorstep of the Anchorage Metropolitan area home to more than half of the state’s population. 

Of the 69 Novembers on record, the Weather Service reported the past one posted temperatures and precipitation near the middle or lower-middle of the range:

The way we were

Newcomers to the state are to be excused if they thought this was anything other than normal given that it has been eight years since the Anchorage area saw a November so cold and five years since it saw one so snowy, according to the agency.

Election Day was especially frosty this year, going into the record books as the second coldest in history. Only election day 1956 was colder with an average temperature of two degrees, according to the agency.

Alaska was still a territory then and thus denied a vote in the presidential election. The year turned out to be one of the coldest in Anchorage history, according to the Alaska Climate Research Center. 

Where this soon to be official “winter” seasons goes from here remains to be seen. The national Climate Prediction Center foresees warmer than normal temperatures north of the Alaska Range for the rest of this month plus January and February, largely due to the shortage of ice in the Arctic Ocean.

But south of the Alaska Range and south along the Gulf of Alaska coast all the way to Canada, the prediction is that winter will look a lot like November only possibly with a little less precipitation. The temperatures are forecast to remain below normal.

Most of the rest of the nation – with the exception of the Pacific Northwest, northeast Montana and the Dakotas – is expected to experience normal to above normal temperatures, which is in and of itself largely normal.

When Alaska zags, the rest of the national invariably zigs. You can pretty much count on it being balmy in Anchorage if it’s freezing in Florida.

The climate center is calling for Florida to be warm from now through early 2021, which goes with Alaska being colder.







12 replies »

  1. Water Vapor is a vastly more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. And we have oceans of water. A trace gas in the atmosphere really does little to climate. Carbon Dioxide is less than .05% of the atmosphere. But once they regulate what you breath out they own you. The information is out there though search engines hide it.

  2. It’s called weather. If Government agencies hadn’t manipulated weather data to fit the political agenda of the day, that is what we would be talking about – the weather. Why is the NWS Anchorage only using data from 1950 when there is credible data in Alaska dating back to the 1930’s & even before. Is it because the 30’s data contains some of the hottest temperatures on record ? 50 years or even 150 years of data does not make for definitive data.

    • FfF,
      just wondering,Im too lazy to look it up, what was the polar ice cap condition back in the day(pick a year or decade, theres actually 100yrs of fairly decent tabulated wx data for alaska).I can tell you in one mans small time horizon, that the ice pack used to come down a bit below (20-40 miles)the Pribolof islands in the Bering sea.And now it would be lucky to reach the Pribs.
      There are stories of Kachemak Bay freezing over, again not data, but there were people still living in Homer when I lived there in the ’80’s,that claimed it so(in my mind far more reliable than the recent “voting scandals”.)
      The window for North Slope Ice Road building has been shrinking at a small rate for years.The last time I worked on the slope (2010 or so) I helped with a small job drilling/installing CO2 powered thermal cycle cooling tubes (manufactured somewhere in AK btw) below a BP drill tool building.
      It was on pilings, more than half of it over a frozen pond(over not so perma frost).
      The purpose was to try to stabilize the receding perma frost under the exceptionally heavy building, and by NS standards, it wasn’t really large.Maybe 300×100,on a poured 4-6″ concrete slab over pilings.
      The idea is much the same as the cooling mechanism of the TAPS VSM supports for above ground transit( I could be wrong, but I think those may be ammonia powered.The properties of CO2 were better I want to say).
      Pretty cool idea, seemed like a growth industry to me.
      The dots are there if you want to try to make a connection,
      I view the arctic as sorta the outside of a frozen Otter Pop bar, inside (southerly latitudes)still just fine.But the outside (north of arctic circle is turning to mush.)
      Siberian tundra fires is another clue imo

      • No worries Dave Mc, Obama, I mean Biden and AOC’s “New Green Deal” will take trillons out of your pocket and fill their pockets. There, that ought to cure the “man-made problem” that has changed over and over for billions of years. Thank God to because electric vehicles you will be forced to drive dont do so well in the cold.

      • Bryan,several times a week i get passed by a Tesla.
        Coming in the next few years will be fleets of short haul class8 trucks with something like 250 mile range,if im not mistaken,volvo already manufactures underground all electric mining equip.
        Zero emissions,means minimal air quality issues,big deal underground.
        While service intervals for diesel engines are getting longer and longer.The cost of filters keeps creeping up every year.And of course theres the cost of DEF fluid to throw in the mix too,and system components that seem to have a less than reasonable life span.
        Have we mentioned the cost of labor yet?

  3. It’s been a good winter. Thank God for our atmosphere and its ability to confound scientists and their obsession with trying to squeeze all answers into measuring the yearly changes and claiming to know what is actually happening. La Niña, El Niño, icebergs, PV, the earth’s rotation, solar bursts, and C02. Yeah, they have it all figured out. Til next year. Enjoy the snow!

  4. The old observation is that in the first part of winter there is only so much cold air to go around, so when it’s cold up here, it’s warm down south and vice versa. This works until around the end of Jan when there is enough cold air and it’s just cold everywhere, some worse than others. Cheers –

  5. Ah yes, the magic words – “la Nina, el Nino, Polar Vortex, and Jetstream”. All NATURAL AND NORMAL weather patterns. At times el Nino or la Nina can last for years.
    So, if something is warming (“Global Warming”), wouldn’t it be impossible for it to be cooling? Yes, I think it would. So, since the earth has experienced el Nino and la Nina’s NATURAL weather patterns for 4.5 BILLION years, that just leaves the taxpayers being raped out of TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS in bogus government SCAMS. With all scams – FOLLOW THE MONEY…

    • Not so true. These events have not been around for billions of years. During that period our continents were not where they are are now. I suspect LaNinas, etc are relatively short term phenomenons on your scale of time as they are on my scale. The impacts of these various events on our weather will eventually be overwhelmed or enhanced by the more critical urgency of Global Warming within our lifetimes. An example are hurricanes. Because of that the world is greatly reducing, not eliminating, our need for oil.

      • Matt, you ever heardnof the Ice Ages? Scientists have recorded five significant ice ages throughout the Earth’s history: the Huronian (2.4-2.1 billion years ago), Cryogenian (850-635 million years ago), Andean-Saharan (460-430 mya), Karoo (360-260 mya) and Quaternary (2.6 mya-present) or the Eocene period , which occurred between 53 and 49 million years ago, was the Earth’s warmest temperature period for 100 million years. However, this “super-greenhouse” eventually became an icehouse by the late Eocene.
        Or, do you think all this “Climate Change/Global Warming” nonsense all started during the last 20yrs?
        “Critical urgency”? Save is all from what exactly???

      • But Bryan, its warmed 2 degrees in last hundred years and every one wants to live near equator! How can we withstand another 2 degrees? Wait ! Humans live at 60 below and 120 degrees about an aprx 180 degree temperature range . So 2 degrees means nearly nothing unless it was 2• degrees colder! . Also I forgot , plants grow better in a hot green house as long as there is a breeze . Northern and true southern folk welcome global warming as it makes the planet more livable for humans and animals by percentage and more productive for growing plants and animals. Bring it on baby ! Bring the sandy warm beaches to me ! 😉

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