This winter’s shocking warmth in the Arctic, some seven degrees above average, has oozed into the Alaska which is experiencing one of its mildest recorded winters.
So far this winter, Alaska’s temperature has averaged about 10 degrees above normal, ranking third warmest in records that date back to 1925.
Unusually warm temperatures and a profound lack of snow are affecting areas all over the state.
The index which ranks the severity of winter shows Anchorage is having one of its gentlest winters on record.
In one a 50-day stretch spanning January and February, Anchorage was warmer than normal on 49 of them.
Other parts of southern Alaska have seen temperatures remain above normal for more than 50 consecutive days.
And, for the first time on record, not a single observing location in Alaska has recorded a temperature of minus-50 or colder.
Snowfall has been scarce in many areas. Through mid-February, snow amounts were less than 10 percent of normal in central, interior and southeast Alaska.
Juneau put together its longest snowless streak on record, lasting 53 days from Dec. 29 to Feb 19.
Anchorage went snowless for 37 straight days through Feb. 20, also its longest such streak. It has logged just 7.9 inches of snow since Dec. 1 compared to a normal of 36.9 inches.
Fairbanks, Alaska, set a record for its lowest snow total between Dec. 1 and Jan. 31, measuring just 1.8 inches.
The lack of cold and snow over the state has practical implications for its way of life.
“Wide expanses of dry grass exposed on snowless ground are raising concerns about early wildfires,” writes the Alaska Dispatch News. “Ski races are being canceled or converted into contests of repeated circuits on a loop of manmade snow.”
This year’s strong El Nino event, and the associated warmth of the Pacific Ocean, is likely partly to blame, along with the cyclical Pacific Decadal Oscillation – which is in its warm phase.
The warmth is also occurring against a backdrop of record low Arctic sea ice and a long-term trend towards higher temperatures, due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, told the Alaska Dispatch News when all of these factors converge “it can get crazy warm.”
This is the second straight toasty winter in the Last Frontier. The winter of 2014-2015 saw temperatures 4 to 10 degrees warmer than normal.
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