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Winter is the fastest-warming season in Alaska

Since 1970, the average temperature during the winter has climbed nearly 7-degrees
Anchorage sees the first snow of the season. View from our Girdwood Weather Camera
Anchorage sees the first snow of the season. View from our Girdwood Weather Camera(KTUU)
Published: Feb. 1, 2021 at 10:51 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Despite a moderate La Niña, winter in Alaska has been hard to come by. With just under a month left in the season, only a handful of days have seen biting cold temperatures, most notably the beginning of the year. Even with the brief cold snap that Southcentral saw, January closed the books as the 11th warmest on record and one of the least snowy winters since record-keeping began in the 1950s.

It’s a trend that has been ongoing across not only Southcentral but the entire state as a whole. Winter’s are steadily warming, with the most pronounced warmth occurring during the long winter nights. We experienced that this January as nearly three consecutive weeks of warm nights were at least 5 to 20 degrees above average. This came as a slew of storms continually tracked into the Gulf of Alaska reinforcing the warm, wet and windy conditions.

Anchorage is seeing nearly 3 weeks fewer of nights below freezing.
Anchorage is seeing nearly 3 weeks fewer of nights below freezing. (Climate Central)

Data compiled by Climate Central, an independent organization of leading scientists and journalists on climate change, shows that Anchorage is seeing 16 fewer nights below freezing. Elsewhere across the state, Juneau is seeing nearly 11 fewer nights, while Fairbanks is seeing only one. The large decline in Anchorage is likely due to the sheer number of winter storms the state continues to see each winter, which is not only dumping more snow but also leading to warmer conditions.

Those storms propelled our overall winter temperature, with this winter currently sitting at the 8th warmest on record.

Not counting February, this winter is currently sitting as the 8th warmest on record.
Not counting February, this winter is currently sitting as the 8th warmest on record.(Alaska's Weather Source)

While we still have February to get through, which promises decent shots of cold air, both December and January ended well above average. This winter warming trend has been largely consistent since the turn of the 21st century, with only a handful of winters seeing true cold. This winter warmth is also leading to a fast transition from winter to spring. While the overall forecast ahead shows that February will likely close out below average it will be the first month to do so since November and only the 6th month in more than 2 years of above-average warmth in Southcentral.

While La Niña typically brings cold and dry conditions to Southcentral, we have yet to truly see this. Although we usually see the greatest impacts from La Niña during the late parts of the season, we’re quickly running out of time, as this winter is on pace to continue the trend of warming winters in Alaska.

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