DATA VIZ: Alaska snowfall throughout the years

Published: Feb. 3, 2017 at 4:27 PM AKST
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What are climate normals?



refer to the averages of the nearest past three decades worth of climate data. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), climate normals are produced once every 10 years. They are useful, because they provide a recent baseline to compare today’s weather patterns to the past.

The latest dataset,

, was released by the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). They calculated their dataset using observations from weather stations, which are operated by NOAA’s National Weather Service.


Above, the interactive data visualization shows 15 different Alaska locations and their monthly snowfall amounts, for the past six years, using archived climate data from the Alaska Climate Research Center (ACRC).

Months with zero recorded inches of snowfall either had zero snowfall, or had


amounts of snowfall. A trace of snow is snowfall that does not stick - the snow melts immediately upon hitting the ground. The records denote a trace of snowfall with a “T,” but the data visualization reflects it as zero.

The red line indicates average monthly snowfall amounts for the entire state.

The list of 15 stations include: Anchorage, Annette, Barrow (now known as Utqiaġvik), Bethel, Bettles, Cold Bay, Fairbanks, Juneau, King Salmon, Kodiak, Kotzebue, McGrath, Nome, St. Paul Island and Yakutat.

Snowfall data and trends from 2010 through 2016:

In 2016, the average amount of annual snowfall recorded across the state, using the 15 stations as reference points, was 33 inches. While climate normals indicate that annual statewide snowfalls averaged over two times this amount, at 71.8 inches.

Looking back at 2016, Anchorage also had less than half the normal amount with 36.8 inches for the entire year. The normal amount for Anchorage was at 74.5 inches of snowfall, annually.

In 2016, most of Alaska had average, or below average, snow, from January through March. However, towards the end of the year, many locations experienced a spike in snowfall.

Other highlights in the data include 82.5 inches of snow in Yakutat, during November 2011. And in November 2015, Bettles had more than 50 inches of snow.

To see how your city’s snowfall has varied over the years, take a look at the interactive data visualization, above.