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Alaska’s exceptional heat wave delivers state’s hottest days on record

A satellite view of Alaska on Sunday shows clear skies and smoke from several large fires. (NASA Today)
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A heat wave for the record books has roasted our 49th state, sending temperatures into uncharted territory.

Over the weekend, boosted by historic heat in the southern part of the state, Alaska’s average temperature surged to its highest level ever recorded on back-to-back days.

A giant heat dome over Alaska is set to threaten all-time temperature records

“It is likely that Saturday, July 6, 2019, was the warmest day on record statewide (at least in the last 100 years)," tweeted Alaska climatologist Brian Brettschneider. But, he continued, “this distinction only lasted 1 day as Sunday was even warmer!”

Southern Alaska has been the epicenter of the heat. Anchorage posted its hottest day on record Thursday, hitting 90 degrees, and then twice matched its previous all-time highest temperature of 85 degrees Sunday and Monday, notching its warmest week on record in the process. To top or tie an all-time record three times in five days is practically unheard of.

Through Monday, Anchorage had hit 80 degrees or higher six days in row, doubling the previous longest streak of three. Its average temperature over the past 12 days is five degrees higher than any comparable stretch on record.

So far this month, its average temperature is an astounding 12.4 degrees above normal.

Anchorage has logged eight days of 80 degrees or higher this year, doubling the old record of four from 2015. Tuesday’s temperatures should flirt with 80 once again.

Anchorage isn’t alone. It’s a similar story in Juneau, where there have also been eight 80-degree-or-higher days in 2019. This ties 2009 for second most in a year, with the top spot held by 2004, when there were 12 such days.

Other places in southern Alaska that have seen historically high temperatures, especially in the past week, include Kenai, King Salmon and Kodiak.

Record-crushing heat torches Alaska as Anchorage hits all-time high of 90

Alaska climatologist Rick Thoman gathered a list of what he calls the “headline” numbers so far, including all-time and July record high temperatures set since June 30 (it is not a comprehensive list).

The Alaskan heat wave is easing, but it’s not over. The days ahead feature temperatures dropping from record warm to very warm.

Longer-term outlooks generally predict that the warmth will persist, with above-normal readings likely to continue. This is very much in keeping with trends in a warming world.

In recent months and years, abnormally warm weather has seemingly become the new normal in Alaska. As the latest example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Tuesday that the state had posted its second-warmest June ever recorded.