Old cold

Lars atop a drift covering a thicket of 10-foot tall alder in the Chugach Mountain Front Range/Craig Medred photo

The high temperature in Alaska’s largest city hit 22 degrees on Sunday – 13 degrees below normal and 26 degrees below the record temperature set in 1998, according to National Weather Service records.

The forecast for Monday was for a high in the mid 20s to low 30s – 15 to as much as 30 degrees colder than the record highs recorded on the same date in 2016 and 2019.

Anchorage was then in the middle of a span of globally warmed years that had many talking about a Seattle-esque “new normal.” Then came New Year’s Day 2020 when the warm, rainy weather of previous years did an about-face back to the cold, snowy weather of Alaska history,  and now everything looks to be, at least temporarily, back to normal.

Or maybe better than normal, or worse, depending on one’s views on snow and cold.

“Anchorage’s remarkable run of sub-freezing days continues,” the Weather Service posted on its Facebook page a week ago. “Today (March 15th) is the 50th day in a row with a high temperature at or below freezing. This is already in the top 10 for longest streaks on record (1952-present).”

“February was entirely below freezing for only the third time on record and halfway through March, we still haven’t reached 32°F. The seven-day forecast continues sub-freezing high temperatures through March 21st. Beyond that, all global forecast models continue the sub-freezing conditions through the end of the month. While the global model outputs are not actual forecasts, they support the idea of continued cool/cold conditions.”

Alaskans were warned

Score one for Judah Cohen, the guru of the polar vortex at the weather consultancy Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER).

Back in October, he cautioned that early snowfall in Siberia would give the vortex the jitters and the northern hemisphere might pay the price. A relatively mild December in Gulf Coast Alaska made that prediction look a little questionable, but now….

Snow like Anchorage hasn’t seen in years. Mid-month temperatures in the Interior near 40 degrees below zero, cold enough to make mushers in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race thankful the COVID-19 modified course was turning back for Anchorage instead of pushing on into the frigid Yukon River basin. And a National Climate Prediction Center warning that northerly winds raise the “probabilities of below normal temperatures for southern, mainland Alaska” through mid-April.

Southern mainland Alaska is the center’s description for the north Gulf of Alaska coast at the heart of which beats the state’s urban core now home to almost 65 percent of the Alaska population.

Along with the continuing cold there, the climate center is predicting that “anomalous troughing and several shortwave disturbances (will) lead to enhanced probabilities of above-normal precipitation.”

Given the expected temperatures, that precipitation is likely to fall as yet more snow. Some Alaskans – snowmachine enthusiasts, skiers and snowboarders, fat-tired cyclists, dog mushers, backcountry adventurers who can put on a pair of snowshoes and go almost anywhere when the conditions are right – will embrace this news.

Others, primed for the arrival of spring, will welcome it about as much as the flu.

That the planet overall is warming – apparently because of all the carbon dioxide humans have pumped into the atmosphere since the start of the Industrial Revolution – is now a scientific reality. 

How this shakes out as weather, however, is not so clear. The planet’s prehistory records shifting areas of warm and cold, and some scientists now believe there was a time 3 to 4 billion years ago when Earth was wholly covered by water.

“An early Earth without emergent continents may have resembled a ‘water world’, providing an important environmental constraint on the origin and evolution of life on earth as well as its possible existence elsewhere,” geochemist Benjamin Johnson and geobiologist Boswell Wing theorized in a paper published in Nature Geoscience earlier this month. 

How we got from there to where we are today on a planet with landmasses vital for the survival of billions of home sapiens will no doubt be debated by scientists for years. The more we learn, the more questions we raise.

The planet’s climate is complicated. Meteorologists have spent decades trying to figure it out. They have developed sophisticated models to help aid their predictions. On Sunday night, those models were predicting generally cold and dry weather through Wednesday.

Beyond that, however, all bets were off.

“There is a noticeable amount of model divergence from the Bering (Sea) to the Gulf of Alaska,” the Weather Service reported.

As the old-timers in Alaska have observed, the only thing constant about the weather is change.






12 replies »

  1. Carbon Dioxide is less than .04% of the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is crushed by water vapor as a greenhouse gas. We have oceans of water.

    • Any word from the “eco terrorists” on the Wuhan Red Death? No! Just follow the money. Kind of like, heard any “feminists” against Cuomo or Biden?

      “While Covid face mask mandates have proved lucrative for governments, the pharmaceutical and PPE industries, and health officials, they have taken a devastating toll on the world’s oceans and wildlife according to ecological and environmental experts.
      An extensive study from marine preservation group OceansAsia found that “the number of masks entering the environment on a monthly basis as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is staggering.”

      “From a global production projection of 52 billion masks for 2020, we estimate that 1.56 billion masks will enter our oceans in 2020, amounting to between 4,680 and 6,240 metric tonnes of plastic pollution,” OceansAsia reported. “These masks will take as long as 450 years to break down and all the while serve as a source of micro plastic and negatively impact marine wildlife and ecosystems.”

  2. Question: Do bears emerge from their dens based on increasing light or increasing temperature/decreasing snowpack? Based on the time the sun is setting, seems like I need to start thinking about them again. But based on what the thermometer says in the morning and the amount of snow on the ground, it’s hard to imagine them emerging any time soon. Any old timers have any wisdom they’d care to share?

    • I’m always on the lookout for them. For that one that didn’t quite get enough fat to last a winter, or that den where they can wake up like a bear.

  3. If you enjoy being outside and like,or atleast make peace with winter,this is hands down the best month of winter to date.
    12+ hrs of daylight,and no colder,if anything a bit warmer than the rest of winter so far.
    It wasnt that long ago that I remember chasing rabbits on the hay flats on -10 early mornings.
    Havent seen that since,but you never know.

  4. The two most common elements on planet earth are hydrogen and stupidity.
    Unfortunately, we seem to be relying on the latter.

  5. Earth and it’s weather has always been in flux. Another way of looking at it politically incorrectly: Mother Nature is like all Women; unpredictable………..

  6. Globally 2020 (tied with 2016) was the warmest year on
    record (modern measurements). Just saying.

    • Warmest on “record” huh? Baloney.. Do you mean in the last 100yrs? Big deal… what does that prove? Nothing.. The earth has gone through a sea of temprature changes during the last 4+ billion years where it has been warmer even without man’s “input”.. just saying… The problem is propaganda.

    • This is the warmest planet Earth any human has ever seen and its still below freezing for 50 straight days.

  7. The world’s climate is NOT complicated. What a bunch of baloney. What is complicated is trying to collaborate skewed data worldwide to frame a bogus money grabbing narrative. The climate changes 4x each year (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer) for the last 4 billion years. The last 100yrs has done NOTHING to change that. I do love how the frauds change the narrative to “Climate Change” during the Winter and “Global Warming” during the Summer.
    Like the Biden Admin, what a corrupt joke.

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