Weather

Alaska is suffering from some intense cold spells and no relief is coming anytime soon – Are you up to it?


By Paul Dorian

12Z GEFS forecast map of 850-millibar average temperature anomalies in Alaska over the next 5 days. Map provided by NOAA, Tropicaltidbits.com

Overview

Temperatures peaked today in Fairbanks, Alaska and are currently right around the 0-degree mark and they will most likely stay below zero the entire time at least the next 7 days or so. In fact, lows this weekend are likely to drop to nearly 25 degrees below zero amid an ongoing intense cold spell that could last into December. Although Alaska is usually quite cold this time of year, but this temperature is in many cases lower than normal and also slightly different from recent years. Some spots are likely to end with the coldest November on record.

King Salmon, Alaska has experienced 13 consecutive days with intense cold and temperatures ranging from 15 degrees to 31 degrees below average (other than normal temperature is boxed in red). This month could very well turn out to be the coldest November on record for this southern Alaskan town. Data courtesy NOAA/NWS.

Details

Some recent winters in Alaska have been warmer than usual, but this year got off to a very different start with a persistently intense cold in the 49th state. This isn’t your typical cold for Alaska and a the score could end with the coldest month in November ever recorded.

Sea surface temperatures south and west of Alaska have been colder than normal this year (right panel) while a year ago (left panel), and in recent years, they have been warmer than average. often. Data provided by Canada’s Met Center

In Fairbanks, temperatures are likely to stay below zero from late Tuesday through at least the next 7 days or so. The normal high in Fairbanks this time of year is +8 degrees (F) and -10 degrees (F) is the normal low and this coming weekend temperatures could bottom out at 25 degrees below zero. Another example of relentless cold comes from King Salmon (Bristol Bay region south of Alaska), where average daily temperatures range from 15 degrees to 31 degrees. below average for 13 consecutive days. In fact, it seems pretty certain that this will end up being the coldest November on record in King Salmon as relief is not expected anytime soon. Many Alaskan towns experienced record lows this week including Bethel, Cordova and Alyeska with two days each, and Homer with three days of the week with record lows this week.

Sea ice has coped with intense cold with its steepest increase at the start of this season since 2012. Graph showing Chukchi fall ice date since the late 1970s (Data provided by NSIDC)

Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage, was not spared the intense cold with Tuesday’s temperatures in the single digits and likely to peak near the +10 degrees (F) mark. The normal high in Anchorage this day is +26 degrees (F) and the normal overnight low is +15 degrees (F). In fact, temperatures this weekend are likely to bottom out near 15 degrees Celsius below zero 30 degrees below normal for this time of year.

Sea ice has coped with intense cold with its steepest increase at the start of the season since 2012. Graph showing the extent of ice in the Bering Sea as of October 1, 2021 (Data provided by NSIDC)

One of the possible causes of the intense cold that will hit Alaska this month is colder-than-normal waters off the west and south coasts. This area of ​​colder-than-normal water has been quite persistent in recent months and is a dramatic change from recent winters. Last year and during some of the previous winters, water in the northeastern Pacific was slightly warmer than usual – which could have played a big part in some of the recent warmer-than-usual winters in Alaska.

With persistent and intense cold coupled with colder-than-normal water temperatures, sea ice has responded accordingly and has grown quite rapidly – in some cases, reaching its greatest extent early in the season since 2012 For example, the “crossing” in the Chukchi Sea has already exceeded 95% of the basin, which is the earliest catchment since 2012 and about 4 or 5 weeks earlier than the past 9 years. Ice extent in the Bering Sea also started the fastest in early winter since 2012.

Meteorologist Paul Dorian



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