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Alaska records record temperature of 19.4 ° C in December | US News

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An unusual winter heat wave in Alaska sent daytime temperatures above 15.5 ° C (60 ° F) and torrents of rain at a time of year normally associated with freezing cold and snow.

In the island community of Kodiak, the air temperature at a tide gauge reached 19.4 ° C (67 ° F) on Sunday, the highest value on record in December in Alaska, said Center scientist Rick Thoman. Alaska Climate Policy and Assessment. He called it “absurd”.

The new benchmark high came amid a wave of mild extremes in December, said Thoman, including 18.3 (65F) at Kodiak airport, a record 16.6C (62F) in the community. of Cold Bay on the Alaska Peninsula and at least eight December days of temperatures above 10C (50F) in the Aleutian town of Unalaska, including a reading of 13.3C (15F) that was on Christmas Day on hottest ever recorded in Alaska.

The most serious immediate implication for humans is probably due to the massive amounts of precipitation dumped over the interior of Alaska, where the Fairbanks area was hit by its most severe winter storm since 1937, Thoman said.

Normally, December is a dry month in the interior of Alaska because the generally freezing air cannot hold much moisture. No matter how wet it drains, it tends to be “the fluffiest powder because the air is nice and cold,” said Thoman, who lives in Fairbanks.

But so much snow fell on Sunday that it gave up the roof of the only grocery store in Delta Junction, a town 95 miles (153 km) southeast of Fairbanks.


Perhaps worse, the heavy snowfall was followed by torrents of rain that covered communities in the area with ice, triggering widespread power outages and causing the closure of main roads and offices, as well as a nickname. : Icemageddon.

The Alaska Department of Transportation has warned that the roads will remain unsafe for a long time due to the cement-like layer of ice that has formed there.

“Ice is extremely difficult to remove once it has bonded to the road surface. Even though the air temperatures were warm during ‘icemageddon2021’, the roads were at subzero temperatures, which caused the ice to settle on the surface, ”the department said on Twitter.

Hot, humid weather blasts in midwinter have become more common in Alaska over the past two decades than in previous years, a sign of climate change, Thoman said. “This is exactly what we expect in a warming world,” he said.

The story is similar elsewhere in the Far North, where winter rains have proven dangerous to humans and grazing animals, such as caribou and muskoxen, who struggle when ground ice covers food sources. These difficulties are expected to intensify.

A study published last month in the journal Nature Communications predicted an arctic climate with more winter rain than snow from 2060 or 2070.

Alaska will still have its cold winter – temperatures in Fairbanks are expected to dip below -28 ° C (20 ° F) this weekend – but hot and soggy episodes are expected to be more numerous in the future, Thoman said .

“A warming and humidifying world has put our thumbs on the scales to make this more likely,” he added.

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