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Winter makes a comeback as the temperature roller coaster continues

Average daily temperature in Anchorage since the start of winter.
Average daily temperature in Anchorage since the start of winter.(Alaska's News Source)
Published: Feb. 17, 2021 at 6:31 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - It’s been a roller coaster ride of warmth this winter across much of Alaska, but the recent cold this month has tipped the scale back to seasonal averages. The last month of winter came on the heels of what was the 11th warmest January on record for Anchorage. It was paving the way for Alaska’s largest city to potentially see a top 10 warmest winter on record. However, Mother Nature threw a curveball and did so by plunging The Last Frontier back into the deep freeze.

MonthDays Above AverageNormalDays Below AverageAverage Temperature
December17 Days11 Days3 Days22.6° (17th Warmest)
January18 Days6 Days7 Days22.3° (11th Warmest)
February0 Days5 Days11 Days11.9° (Currently 7th Coldest)

While the trend favors a brief return to above-average temperatures this week, another cold snap is poised to make a return to the 49th State. In doing so, it will allow February to end as the coldest month of this climatological winter, instead of January, which is normally the coldest month of the season. This flip of when the cold arrives has only happened ten other times. The most recent was the winter of 2017-2018 when February finished nearly 8 degrees colder than the warmest month that winter.*

Currently, a slow-moving pattern exists across Southcentral and Southeast Alaska. Thanks to an upper-level ridge that has nosed its way into the state, not only will we see a slow warming trend, but incoming storms will be poised to weaken over the area. This will lead to daily cloud coverage and snowfall potential across Southcentral. Southeast will also see impacts from this as the active weather is set to bring a return to the panhandle as the flow generally remains onshore. This will not only bring a return to temperatures near 40 in the Southeast, but will also keep a daily chance for rain/snow in the forecast. This comes following some of the coldest days that the Southeast has seen since in over a decade.

The ridge of high pressure will be short-lived, as the winter roller coaster continues. Starting this weekend an Arctic trough will dig through the state and bring the return to below normal temperatures. With the jet stream expected to remain well south of the mainland, the cold air will spill back into Southcentral. By this weekend, temperatures will once again struggle to climb out of the teens, with overnight lows for some locations flirting with zero. While the strength of the trough will play a huge role in just how cold we get and for how long, one should enjoy the brief return to seasonal levels before old man winter comes blowing back through the region.

* Although winter technically doesn’t end until March 20, climatologically speaking, it’s easier to compare seasonal data and temperature differences throughout the year. This means that with the close of February, the climate season shifts to spring as the transition season, before our warmest three months of the year.

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