What five years ago was looking to be Anchorage’s shift to a warmer, friendlier, “new normal” climate officially ended in 2021 with a year about as normal as normal can be in Seward’s icebox, according to the National Weather Service.
The new chill started in 2020 immediately in wake of the 49th state’s widely reported warmest year on record.
On New Year’s of 2019, the 45-degree rain falling on the downtown streets in Alaska’s largest city made it look more Pacific Northwest than Alaska. But by the start of the new year, city residents were digging out of anywhere from seven to 22 inches of snow and shivering as the temperature dove below zero.
The thermometer hit minus three on Jan. 3, 2019 – the first time temperatures in the city had gone below zero in several years – and the mercury kept diving, finally hitting minus-11 on Jan. 6.
The new normal some had started to enjoy and others to detest – attitudes toward global warming being a mixed bag in cold, dark Alaska – looked then to be in trouble, and the year ended up barely above normal.
The trendline from there just kept going downward with 2021 ending up as the coldest year in a decade, and 2022 is now off to a chilly start. The first six days of the new year have all been well below normal.
New Year’s Day – when the daily temperature was but three degrees below normal – was the warmest of the lot. Two days later, the temperatures went into the double digits below normal and have stayed there.
The short-term forecast is for more of the same with a hint of a break next week with high temperatures possibly climbing to 25 to 35 degrees, according to the Weather Service. Normal daily highs in Anchorage in January are in the low 20s.
“Daily low temperatures are around 14 degrees, rarely falling below eight degrees or exceeding 30 degrees,” according to the Weatherspark. The lows being reported around the city Wednesday night ranged from six to minus-17 with the highest temperatures being reported closest to an ice-filled Turnagain Arm and above 1,000 feet in the Chugach Mountains.
Temperature inversions which leave warm air sitting above a pool of cool air are common along the Chugach in winter.