A frigid Arctic air mass, unusual even by Alaska standards, is dropping the mercury in the state’s interior to unheard of levels in mid-November. Stunningly low temperatures in the -35 to -50 range have gripped the region since Tuesday. These temperatures are some 25 to 40 degrees colder than average.
This morning, Fairbanks airport dropped to 40 below zero, breaking the old record of 39 below. That’s after setting a record low of 35 below Tuesday morning, breaking the old record of 33 below from 1956. Wednesday’s low of -39 just missed 1969’s record of -41.
Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks dropped to an incredible 42 below Wednesday morning, shattering the old record of 37 below set in 1956. This morning, it dropped to 42 below again, setting another new record low. The average low is -7.
A diifficult to imagine -49 degree reading was measured unofficially at UAF Smith Lake Wednesday, and, according to the National Weather Service (NWS), infrared satellite imagery sensed 50 below readings in the coldest valley locations.
As cold as low temperatures have been, high temperatures haven’t been much warmer. Fairbanks only gets about six hours of daylight this time of year, limiting the opportunity for the sun to moderate temperatures in the aptly named “Land of the Midnight Sun”. Yesterday’s high at the airport was just -28 compared to an average high of 10.
Little relief is in sight. Highs are forecast to range from -10 to -20 for the next week, with overnight lows of -25 to -40. The NWS office in Fairbanks warned:
LONG RANGE MODELS INDICATE ANOTHER SHOT OF REINFORCING COLD AIR ARRIVING EARLY NEXT WEEK...AND POSSIBLY HANGING AROUND INTO THE THANKSGIVING WEEKEND.
Yet according to the Alaska Dispatch, one of the 5 Alaska misconceptions is that it’s cold. Seriously.
Actually, if you consider its reasoning, maybe it makes a fair point:
... coastal Alaska, where most Alaskans live, has a relatively mild climate influenced by the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean. Alaska’s capital city, Juneau, is more like Vancouver, British Columbia, than some frozen chunk of Middle America -- say Chicago. President Barack Obama is from Chicago; it’s why he likes to visit Hawaii so much. Alaska, obviously, can’t match Hawaii for warmth, but Anchorage -- the state’s largest city -- beats the heck out of Minneapolis. The average winter temperature in Anchorage is 26 degrees -- more than twice as warm as the 10-degree average for the Minnesota city always trying to promote its high quality of life. Right. If you’re a polar bear.
On the other hand, if you compare the forecast for Anchorage (highs in the 5-25 degree range) versus Minneapolis (highs in the 30 to 45 degree range) for the next week, I’d sure rather spend my Thanksgiving in the good ole contiguous U.S. than in the Last Frontier...