A look at weather extremes and the big-picture climate connections.

All-Time Heat Records Broken in . . . Alaska?!

A massive dome of high pressure, sometimes referred to as a "heat dome," has set up shop over Alaska, bringing all-time record temperatures just a few weeks after parts of the state had a record cold start to spring. In some cases, towns in Alaska were warmer on Monday and Tuesday than most locations in the lower 48 states.

Forecast temperature anomalies on June 19 from the GFS computer model.
Click image to enlarge. Credit: WeatherBell.com.

For example, Talkeetna set an all-time high temperature record of 96°F on Monday, smashing its previous mark of 91°F set a day earlier, and previously set in June of 1969. In fact, it was warmer in Talkeetna, which is about 110 miles north of Anchorage, than it was in Miami, based on data from the National Weather Service (NWS). (As Weather Underground's Christopher Burt notes, there was an unofficial observation of 98°F on Monday, which would rank among the hottest all-time temperature records for the state.)

In Valdez, which sits along the cool waters of Prince William Sound, the temperature reached a remarkable 90°F Monday, beating the previous all-time mark of 87°F. And in Seward, another coastal port, the temperature hit 88°F, breaking the previous all-time high of 87°F that was set on July 4, 1999.

Here is how the National Weather Service described the Valdez record (the ALL CAPS style is from the original public statement):

EXCITEMENT ABOUNDED THIS AFTERNOON ACROSS NORTHEASTERN PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND AS UNUSUALLY HOT TEMPERATURES WERE FELT ACROSS THE REGION. FOR THE PAST SEVERAL DAYS . . . HIGH TEMPERATURE RECORDS HAVE BEEN TIED OR BROKEN . . . BUT TODAYS TEMPERATURES SOARED BEYOND ANYTHING PREVIOUSLY SEEN IN THIS AREA.

IN VALDEZ . . . THE DAILY HIGH TEMPERATURE RECORD OF 75 DEGREES SET IN 1997 WAS SHATTERED WHEN . . . AT 45 MINUTES AFTER 3 PM...THE MERCURY IN OUR THERMOMETER SHOT UP TO 90 DEGREES. AFTER A BRIEF DIP BACK INTO THE UPPER 80S . . . THE MERCURY AGAIN REGISTERED 90 DEGREES AT 15 MINUTES BEFORE 6 PM.

THIS ALSO CRUSHED THE ALL-TIME RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE FOR ANY DAY OF THE YEAR . . . AND FOR THE MONTH OF JUNE . . . WHICH WAS 87 DEGREES AND WAS ACHIEVED TWICE . . . ON BOTH THE 25TH AND THE 26TH OF JUNE IN 1953. A LOCAL WEATHER SPOTTER IN TOWN RECORDED A HIGH TEMPERATURE OF 87 DEGREES NEAR THE HOSPITAL DURING THE MID-AFTERNOON HOURS TODAY AS WELL. SUN-WORSHIPERS WERE OUT IN FORCE THROUGH THE MID TO LATE EVENING HOURS . . . AS THE TEMPERATURE AT 10 PM WAS STILL AN ASTOUNDING 77 DEGREES.

Extreme heat was also felt across the interior of Alaska, where hot temperatures are expected to continue this week until the large high pressure area, or ridge in the jet stream, weakens and moves away. The heat, combined with low relative humidity and the chance for thunderstorms, is raising the risk of wildfires across parts of Alaska.

A map of the upper level air flow at about 18,000 feet. The bright red area over Alaska corresponds to an unusually strong area of High Pressure bringing warmer-than-average temperatures.
Click image to enlarge. Credit: WeatherBell.com.

On Tuesday June 18, McGrath set a record high of 91°F, beating the old record of 84°F set in 1962. Record highs were also broken or tied at Eielsen Air Force Base and Tanana, the NWS said.

On Sunday, Tanana, Delta Junction, Northway, and McGrath all set set record-high temperatures.

The 90°F and 91°F readings in McGrath, a small town located about 220 miles northwest of Anchorage, are extremely unusual, and it comes on the heels of record cold that occurred during late May.

On May 18, McGrath set a record for the coldest temperature recorded there so late in the season, at 15°F. Fairbanks had an average temperature for the month of May that was 5.1°F below average.

In Nome, the high temperature reached 84°F Monday, breaking the record for June. The highest recorded temperature there for any month is 86°F, which could be within reach Tuesday.

Alaska is one of the fastest-warming states in the U.S., largely because the nearby Arctic region is warming rapidly in response to manmade global warming and natural variability. In recent years, Alaska has had to content with large wildfires, melting permafrost, and reduced sea ice, among other climate-related challenges.

Related Content
As Sea Ice Declines, Winter Shifts in Northern Alaska
Record Warmth in Eastern U.S., Temps Tumble in Alaska
NOAA to Map Alaska's Increasingly Ice-Free Arctic Waters
Coverage of 2012 Summer Heat Waves

« Extreme Planet

Comments

By Karen Malpede (Brooklyn, NY, 11205)
on June 19th, 2013

“Extreme Whether” is a play that pits climate change scientists against deniers…and tells the truth of the story to tell the truth about global warming and Arctic ice melt and its affect on the Jet Stream.  Join us for a reading of “Extreme Whether” Sept. 10 at 2pm at The Cherry Lane Theatre, followed by a talkback by Arctic ice scientist Jennifer Francis. rsvp: info@theaterthreecollaborative.org

The first reading, attended by 130 extremely enthusiastic audience, had a talk by James Hansen and Father Paul Mayer after. “This play certainly resonates with me,” James Hansen.  “Such a powerful vision.  The young must see this,” Father Mayer

We are looking to tour this play.

Reply to this comment

By Walt Flowers (Sacramento, CA 95828)
on June 19th, 2013

I’m trying to correlate online and finding data without the correct numbers on Weather Channel’s historical temp data for Valdez, AK. What gives?

Thanks in advance. Also, i just followed on Twitter.
take care have a nice day.

Reply to this comment

By Ali Cat (Australia)
on June 21st, 2013

Is the temperature map’s scale actually in °c?

Reply to this comment

By Dave (Basking Ridge, NJ 07920)
on June 21st, 2013

Ali, I think the details of the second map could use some additional explanation from a weather expert, which I am not, and so I also have my own question about that. I at least know basic statistics fairly well which may get us halfway there and also in particular the second map relates to pressure not temperature.

The second map, captioned “a map of air flow” is entitled 500 hPa Geopotential Height Normalized Anomalies. In everyday language, 500 hPa is about half the value of the normal atmospheric pressure at sea level and so I take this as essentially a map of atmospheric pressures high off the ground. The greater the tiny little numbers on the lines – if you zoom in to read them – then the higher the pressure. Weather guys feel free to correct me…

Anyway, the color scale is in standard deviations (not degrees C). The standard deviation part potentially tells a story about precisely how unusual the pressure and hence air flow situation over Alaska is at the moment. The problem is that although the statistical part of this is not that complicated, I also don’t know how to interpret it in this context. Basic stats: standard deviation is the deviation from the mean in terms of the width of the distribution previously recorded. Hence, assuming that the data is randomly distributed and fits a normal error distribution then the color scale represents the likelihood of the event.

Textbook:
The probability of falling outside +/- 1 standard deviation / sigma is about 1 in 3.
For +/- 2 sigma it is 1 in 22.
For +/- 3 sigma it is 1 in 370.
For +/- 3.5 sigma it is 1 in 2150.
For +/- 4 sigma it is 1 in 15,800.

So we look at the map and the region over Alaska and the colors seem to match up to the 3 to 3.5 sigma regions on the scale suggesting that the likelihood of seeing those pressures is 1 in about 1000 give or take.  That sounds like a lot but is it? The question I therefore have is 1000 what? 1000 days? It boils down to how long this event is compared with that of events in the corresponding distribution. And what then does that mean in terms of actual degree of unusualness when interpreted by someone who is used to monitoring these types of data for this region.

Andrew? Anyone?

Reply to this comment

By Michael (Brooklyn, NY 11237)
on June 22nd, 2013

I shared your link. Someone who has doubts responded with the following link:

http://www.netstate.com/states/geography/ak_geography.htm

So what about the 1915 record?

And what do you say to people who make the point that the Earth has been warmer before?

Thank you.

Reply to this comment

By zmogus (Peru, NY 12901)
on June 22nd, 2013

The highest temperature recorded in Alaska was in 1915.  100 deg F at Fort Yukon.  It must have been hot in other parts of Alaska at the same time.

Reply to this comment

By Andrew Freedman (Brooklyn, NY)
on June 22nd, 2013

Zmogus - the 1915 record you’re referring to is in dispute, actually, but it is clear that Alaska has had heat waves with upper 90s temps before. However those were mainly in inland locations. This event has been noteworthy for the widespread nature of the heat, with records falling from locations that are 1,000 miles or more apart, and the fact that coastal locations - in some cases bordering ocean waters with sea ice still present not very far offshore - set records as well. Here’s how Christopher Burt, the weather historian for Weather Underground, summarized the coastal records:

“The 88° at Unalakleet is a truly amazing figure since Unalakleet is located on the coast of the Bering Sea (Norton Sound) south of Nome. The 79° at Point Lay is remarkable being on the Beaufort Sea (Arctic Ocean) coastline of far northern Alaska. This is one of the warmest temperatures ever measured on the Arctic coastline of Alaska. It is also astonishing how this heat wave has affected such a large portion of the state, with all-time records being broken from locations as diverse as Valdez and Fort Lay which are almost 1000 miles from one another.”
http://www.wunderground.com/blog/weatherhistorian/comment.html?entrynum=166

Michael - see Burt’s post for more on the 1915 record: http://www.wunderground.com/blog/weatherhistorian/comment.html?entrynum=166.

As for the question of the earth being warmer before, I recommend this resource for a scientifically-accurate description of why that is somewhat irrelevant right now.
http://www.skepticalscience.com/climate-change-little-ice-age-medieval-warm-period-intermediate.htm

Reply to this comment

By Dick Fitzwell (Oceanside, CA 92055)
on July 1st, 2013

Let me put on my tinfoil hat and say this is weather manipulation by climate scientists. We know that there are S.R.M. (Solar Radiation Management) programs that use stratosphereic aerosols (not “chemtrails”).

Who’s to say the the HAARP array so conveniently located in Alaska isn’t being used to warm the region to melt the artic sea lanes opening traffic up for Exxon Mobile.

Of course this could just be part of the natural warming/cooling cycle…There were high temps recorded back in 1915…Must have been all that coal we were burning to industrialize the US at the time…right? lol…please!

Look at Time Magazine (not that it’s any good)...in 1977 we were warned, “How To Survive The Coming Ice Age.” fast forward to 2006 when we are told to “Be worried, be VERY worried.” about global warming (now affectionately known as “climate change”)...propaganda at its best!

I would argue that all these “extreme” weather patterns are not a result of “climate change,” but the result of man tinkering with the natural order of things by spraying TONS upon TONS of aerosols into the atmosphere in a foolish attempt to cool the planet.

Weather modification is not new…

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), San Diego 2/20/2010…Geoengineering discussion:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-o3YlgFK6ds

Three Geoengineering Solutions to Global Warming:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RsrRpjAGi8

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jul/17/us-geoengineers-spray-sun-balloon

Do not tell me GEOENGINEERING does not exist or is conspiracy theory!

 

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