Winter Temperature in Anchorage?

What is the temperature in Anchorage right now?  The official weather service reading in 28 degrees F as I write this Blog.  I live about 12 miles from the weather service office.  It’s 42 degrees F at my house.

A few minutes ago I drove from my house toward Service High School, a distance of about 4 miles.  The temperature varied  between 39 and 42 for the first 3.5 miles of the trip and then ….in the last half mile it dropped to 29 degrees F.

On the afternoon of December 26th I drove from my house to the sleepy ski town of Girdwood.  The 31 mile trip was witness to a similarly odd temperature swing.  I glanced at the thermometer as I left my house, it read 22 degrees F and it was cloudy.  By the time I got to Indian (about half way) it was 35 and raining.   Rain continued and the temperature slowly warmed to about 38 degrees F in Girdwood.   When I drove back to Anchorage 2 hours later… it was still 22 degrees at my house, and still cloudy.  The rain ended a bit north of Indian, and the temperature quickly dropped from 34 into the high 20’s.

Our official Anchorage temperature for December 26th…cloudy with a high of 28 and a low of 17.  No precipitation.

The next morning I drove friends to the Airport.  It was 35 and raining at my house and 22 and cloudy at the airport.   The weather had completely reversed at my house in only 14 hours.   The official weather service temperature is very near the airport.

Anchorage is a hard place to predict weather.   We have very few official weather sites nearby to use as a reference.  We have mountains to the east, ocean to the west and some variation in elevation.   When there is low pressure on one side of the mountains and relatively high pressure on the other side it gets windy and warm at higher elevations.  Shift the pressure gradient a bit and it gets windy at sea level.

When it’s calm, which is most of the time, it can be colder at altitude or warmer, depending on whether or not there is a temperature inversion.   Whenever it’s clear and cold….which happens a lot in winter, the temperature varies with location.    The NE corner of the city can get very cold…compared to where I live.

We in Alaska are used to the weather service being wrong.  We are used to wild temperature swings…and it doesn’t surprise us when the official temperature is nothing like our own experience.   So what’s the temperature in the middle of the Chugach Mountains 5 miles East of my house.   I don’t know.  Nobody knows.  Surface measurements are not available.  There’s nobody there.

Wild temperature variation and poor data sets help add perspective to the debate about climate.  I think  most Americans have too much trust in the statistics provided.  We in Alaska have a better appreciation of the difficult task at hand.   Yes the world is warmer than it was a while ago; but how much warmer?  Precise calculation is a difficult task, very difficult.

Alaska is not alone.  Canada and Siberia have relatively few data sets.  Many parts of the developing world are poorly represented.  The deep oceans that cover 70% of the earths surface are poorly represented too.  So……how warm is the world right now?

NOT an easy question to answer.

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