While the continental US was being slammed with a succession of cold spells and winter storms in January, Alaska was experiencing some of the hottest temperatures ever recorded for the month. Temperatures were as much as 40°F (22°C) above normal. The all-time warmest January temperature ever observed in Alaska was tied on January 27 when the temperature peaked at 62°F (16.7°C) in Port Alsworth.
The NASA map (above left) shows the temperature anomalies in Alaska for January 23–30, 2014. Those areas which experienced higher than average temperatures compared to the 2001–2010 average for the same week are highlighted in red. The map is based on data from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite.
The record heat and rain caused rivers to rise and avalanches which buried highways under as much as 100 feet (30 meters) of snow. The warmer temperatures were caused by a persistent ridge of high pressure off the Pacific Coast.
These findings are consistent with the general warming trend being observed in the Arctic. A recent University of Waterloo study of more than 400 lakes of the North Slope of Alaska, found less ice and a shorter ice season in 2011 compared with 1950. Over the same time-span, the winter ice season has been reduced by almost one month (24 days). Lakes in the region froze almost six days later and broke up about 18 days earlier in the winter of 2011 compared to the winter of 1950. The ice has also gotten 38 centimeters thinner over that period.
© 2014, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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