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The cold temperatures are early, but how unusual?

A climatological look back at weeks seeing temperatures this cold and for several days in a row.
Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 8:13 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - With several inches of snow on the ground, frost on our cars, and the rime ice on the trees, it certainly looks and now feels like winter in Alaska. How normal, though, is it for us to be this cold, and for this long? Here’s a look at the numbers.

There have been 61 similarly cold weeks since records began in 1952 at what is now Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. So, yes, stretches this cold are common here in Southcentral Alaska.

Second, many of these weeks have occurred in December, January, and February. This is when Alaskans would normally expect to have such bitterly cold temperatures.

Third, and what’s probably of most interest, is that in the past 10 years there have only been three other weeks where Anchorage was this cold during a seven day period. Those occurred in: January 2020, January 2012, and November 2011. In addition to November 2011, there have only been two other Novembers that saw a seven day period as cold, and those were November 1955 and November 1963.

While it seems very cold earlier than usual, the upcoming week may only flirt with a few records for the coldest daytime highs; however, it certainly won’t be setting any record lows. In fact, the coldest November morning on record for Anchorage occurred this week back in 1956 when the thermometer dropped to 21 degrees below zero.

The bottom line in all this really means that Anchorage residents just have to step up their winter weather safety game a bit earlier than in years past. Simply put, dress for the weather not the calendar. This means dress in layers, wear a hat (did you know that people lose 7-10% of their body heat through their head?) and don’t forget the gloves.

Chief Meteorologist Melissa Frey and Senior Meteorologist Jackie Purcell will have the forecast trends and how far below normal this stretch of cold weather will actually get during their weathercasts. Looking at the long range models, it’s pretty certain the cold is here to stay for the foreseeable future. So record or not, you’ll want to be prepared for the single digits and sub-zero temperatures this week.

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