It's been an unusually warm Alaska autumn, and winter could be the same

 NOAA Graphic.
NOAA Graphic. (KTUU)
Published: Oct. 19, 2018 at 11:41 AM AKDT
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Have you found yourself wondering why October has been so warm, and if it's normal for this time of year to still not be wearing your winter gear? You're not alone.

Alaskans have been experiencing one of the warmest autumns in the past 100 years, according to climate data. And it's having an effect on ocean surface temperatures.

Residents may have noticed a lack of snow into October, but temperatures in Anchorage and the surrounding areas still hovering in the 50 degree range. Not only has fall been warm, but the winter outlook looks to be similarly warm.

A mild winter could be in store for Alaska in 2018 and into 2019, with above-average temperatures across the northern and western U.S., Alaska and Hawaii.

That's according to the official Winter Outlook, issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center.

Part of the unseasonable weather is due to a towering dome of high pressure over the western Arctic and gulf of Alaska in late September and early October, according to NOAA.

This contributed to dry conditions in the coastal forests in the southeastern part of the state, but it's not just surface temperatures. According to NOAA, it's water temperatures as well.

Ocean temperatures were significantly warmer in much of the southern Chukchi and Bering Seas were even warmer than last autumn, NOAA stated. This could delay sea ice development, which impacts many parts of the state.

That's because El Nino, an ocean-atmosphere climate interaction, is at play, linked to periodic warming in sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific.

Additionally, El Nino has a 70 to 75 percent chance of developing further.

“We expect El Nino to be in place in late fall to early winter,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

“Although a weak El Nino is expected, it may still influence the winter season by bringing wetter conditions across the southern United States, and warmer, drier conditions to parts of the North,” Halpert said.