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Cool spring start linked to water temperatures in the tropical Pacific

Published: Apr. 11, 2022 at 8:00 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - With all the sunshine and melting snow, spring is surely in the air. Beyond the seven-day forecast, inquiring minds want to know: how is the rest of our spring season shaping up?

Since Earth’s surface is 70% water, the ocean is usually a good place to start when trying to answer any climate question. For Alaska that’s the Pacific, and its temperature can make all the weather difference in the world.

You have probably heard of El Nino, the above normal warming of the Pacific waters along the equator. Even though far, far away, that heated body of water affects the weather here at home.

“We have much more frequent, just day after day, week after week of warmer than normal conditions,” Alaska Climate Specialist Rick Thoman.

When those same waters cool below normal, it’s called La Nina. This is the temperature phase we are in now and have been for about two years. Weather associated with this phase can be a wild roller coaster of one extreme to the other in the matter of a week or two. Sound familiar?

“While this winter seems to have been almost the flip-flop on steroids, that by itself is basically what we expect in a La Nina winter,” Thoman said.

As the northern hemisphere sees more sun during the spring, the effects of La Nina tend to diminish. However, Brian Brettschneider with the National Weather Service in Anchorage says that’s not the case this year.

“What’s a little different over the last few months is, it’s kind of hanging on a little stronger than is typical, and so the dates where we think it’s going to subside, keeps getting pushed a little farther into the summer,” Brettschneider.

That might leave people wondering if the wild ups and downs from the winter will also continue further into spring.

“As we move through the spring and into early summer, the influence of La Nina or El Nino tends to become much more diffuse, and it’s harder to tie individual weather patterns across Alaska to what’s going on in the Pacific,” Thoman said.

“There’s a lot of atmospheric flows and ... what we call atmospheric teleconnections that we look at, that influence the flow of the atmosphere and where we think the winds will be coming from, and how they’re going to set up and evolve,” Brettschneider said.

On Monday, the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center released their latest extended outlook for the remainder of the spring. Southcentral and Southeast Alaska may have cooler temperatures, but slightly warmer conditions may be felt along the Arctic coast.

Western Alaska may be wetter this Spring, but the trend for the rest of the state calls for near normal precipitation. March, April, and May are typically Alaska’s driest months of the year.

The Climate Prediction Center updates their long range forecast once a month, and Alaska’s Weather Source will keep you updated on the latest temperature and precipitation trends.

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