Tag Archives: Alaska weather

An Alaska Welcome — Snow

Last Thursday I had images of Spring in my head.  My three weeks in Hawaii had come to an end and the snow in Anchorage was disappearing rapidly.   Friday was a glorious wonderful warm sunny March day….and then it snowed.  I was sitting in my breakfast room eating dinner when it started.   Overnight we got 20 inches of snow.  Snow that had not been predicted.  Alaska was welcoming me home.

Alaska is a tough place to predict weather.   Anchorage has mountains to the East, and sea water to the west.   This part of the world has few weather stations so the only data available is courtesy of satellites.   Weather men get fooled all the time.  This was the second snow storm the weather guru’s had missed in a month.

My daughter lives in New York City.   She grew up in Alaska, which gives her a different perspective.  We have had more than a few discussions on the regional differences in the good ole USA.   New Yorkers appear to have forgotten how to deal with Winter.   They have become weather wimps.   A little snow and it’s panic city.  Everything shuts down.

Allow me to use last Saturday as an example.   When I awoke to 20 inches of snow in my driveway, I did make a change in plans.   I ate breakfast at home.  When the sun came up, I fired up my snow blower and plowed my driveway.   At about 11, I drove over to my daughters house (about 2 miles away), shoveled snow off her car and brought her car back to my house where I parked it in the garage.   I thought a warm car would be a nice surprise for her.

At about 2:45 PM we went to the airport and picked up my daughter and her family.   They were returning from a week in Florida.   The 11 mile each way drive was uneventful.  The plane arrived a few minutes early.   Later in the day, my wife and I went out for a nice dinner.   The next morning, my street had been plowed and most of the major roads in the city were clear.  Life returned to normal.

The Airport did close for a few hours  late Friday night due to poor visibility, but only a few flights were cancelled.   A United flight from Chicago was diverted to Kenai and a few flights to Fairbanks got cancelled.   UPS and FedEx both have hubs in Anchorage and they operated with only a slight hick-up.

I can’t begin to imagine NYC functioning at anything approaching normal for several days after 20 inches of unanticipated snow.  Let’s hope that global warming really is here to stay, because I don’t think New Yorkers are ready for a return to the colder weather of just 40 years ago.

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Local weather extrapolation — A common Climate mistake

We all have a tendency to extrapolate local conditions.   The weather we see at home today has nothing whatsoever to do with climate science.  If it is warmer today than in years gone by it does not mean the world is warmer.   But we think it does.  The Weather Channel lives it’s own special world of extrapolation.    And so do Al Gore and his buddies at the UN .

I make this mistake too often.

Case in point Summer 2013 …Anchorage, Alaska.  We have had a wonderful warm summer with many many days over 70 degrees.   We set a record for the most consecutive days where the daily high temperature was above 70 degrees.  15 days in a row.  And we were close to setting a record for the most days above 70 for an entire season.   Our warm wonderful summer….it’s been  the talk of the town.

And then we almost set a record for the most consecutive days of rain in September.  More rain in Anchorage is supposedly something to expect as the world warms.

Global warming seemed to be all around.

I expected record melting in the Arctic.  2012 had been a record year for Arctic ice  melt, followed by a relatively normal winter.  As the melt season began, the Arctic had extraordinary amounts of first year sea ice.  First year ice is saltier than older ice, which makes it melt at lower temperatures than older sea ice.  A very warm South Central Alaska, quick melting ice; the Arctic was sure to have a record melt year.

I was expecting the regional climate I was experiencing to have wider implications…and I was wrong….as this chart from the National Snow and Ice Data Center demonstrates:

https://i2.wp.com/nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/files/2013/10/asina_N_stddev_timeseries.png

The Arctic had a cool summer and a change in the prevailing winds.   The result was a slow melting year.   And Greenland had a slow melting year too.

But is the world warmer than in the recent past?  Uh….no.   Hot off the presses… the September 2013 world satellite surface temperature data courtesy of the University of Alabama at Huntsville (UAH).

2013 has been and continues to be boringly similar to every year since 2002.

I thought 2013 would be one for the record books in the Arctic.  Mother nature constantly reminds us not to draw simple conclusions when evaluating climate.

Cold Alaska Spring – Part 2 – The Nenana Ice Classic

The Nenana Ice Classic is an Alaska tradition.   Each year thousands of us guess when the ice will melt on the Tanana River at Nenana in central Alaska.  This year somebody won $318,500.

The ice was late this year, really late.  It set a record.  The contest began in 1917, and the latest date had been May 20th in 1964.   We beat it this year….by 2 hours.   2013 now has the dubious distinction of being the new cold standard for the classic.   The following Snow and Ice Data Center chart illustrates the dramatic nature of this years cold.

1964 really stands out!  And 1992 in more recent times.  The date shown in the chart is the Julian date.   The chart was last updated in 1998.  Data since then has been well within the average range of the chart with all dates falling between 114 (2004) and 127 (2002)   The average winning date is Julian 125 or May 5 (or May 4th on a leap year).   This year we were late….16 days late.

I’d be the first to admit that the data really doesn’t mean much, but it is interesting.   1992 (the Pinatubo volcano year) was a very late year and the time around the record setting El Nino in 1998 was unusually early.   And look at 1940.  I wonder what happened that year.

A New Cooler Alaska, I wonder if the IPCC noticed

The last few weeks have been chock full of climate change and environmental news.

Tuesday,  May 1  –  Earth’s greenhouse gas approaches milestone levels.  Carbon dioxide in the environment officially passed 400 ppm.  This story was nothing more than an excuse to drag out all the old gloom and doom climate stuff that we all have been witness to for the last 30 years.

Carbon dioxide has been steadily rising for 200 years and man is probably responsible for most of it, but if there ever was a predictable event this one was it.

Tuesday, May 14 –  A Washington Post story noted that the Obama administration allows wind farms to kill eagles, birds despite federal laws.    Mr. Obama has decided that global climate change is more important than the Endangered Species Act.  This should be interesting to watch.

Friday, May 17 –  The Guardian posted Obama’s climate strategy sets off climate a time bomb.  The article is critical of the compromises the administration has made in the Arctic.

Friday, May 17 –  Weather.com posted an article detailing the record cold in Alaska titled Where Winter Won’t End.  My favorite part of that article was a map showing how cold it has been in Alaska for the last 44 days.  Here it is:

Map of temperature anomalies from April 1 through May 14, 2013. Strongest cold anomalies (4-5 degrees C or more) indicated by deep purple contours. (Image: NOAA/ESRL Physical Science Division)

Saturday, May 18th – Anchorage sets new records for snow and cold as documented in the Anchorage Daily News article titled Late-May snow sets multiple records.

Sunday May 19 – At 7:00 AM this morning it was 21 degrees F at my house.      The high yesterday was new record low temperature for a daily high by a whopping 7 degrees.   Today will be the 46th consecutive day it has been colder than average in Fairbanks.

Record high carbon dioxide, record low temperatures, and lots of environmental news.   Alaska was supposed to be one of the places most impacted by global warming as this chart prepared by the IPCC in 2007 shows:

Most of the  lawsuits relating to the Arctic environment  in the US revolve around the shrinking Arctic ice pack.  And the Arctic is melting in the summer despite the cold in Alaska.  But here’s an interesting sidebar.   It’s melting more off Asia and Europe than off Alaska as this map of the current Arctic Ice condition demonstrates:

US lawsuits about the disappearing Arctic Ice will abound and will be largely ineffective because they are regional in nature and the problem being addressed in international in nature.  It matters not what the USA does, if Russia, Norway, Denmark and Canada don’t go along.  Recent history would indicate that actions off the coast of Alaska have had very little to do with the current Arctic Ice disappearance.

Such is the nature of climate science and environmental law as it sits today.   The subject is  very complex and does not fit well into 30 second time bites.   Carbon dioxide is steadily rising, the world is not warming and all the IPCC projections to date have proven to be wrong.  We are running well below the temperatures the IPCC predicted just 6 years ago as this recent IPCC chart demonstrates:

AR4 (orange) was prepared in 2005 and published in 2007.  Virtually every year since has been colder (the black bars) than their predicted range and 2012 continued the trend.  So far 2013 has been a bit colder than 2012.  So what’s going on?

I don’t know.

It does emphasize something I think I have been right about since day one of this blog.  Where climate is concerned everybody with a strong opinion on the subject is guessing.  I see  guesses here, guesses there, guesses everywhere whenever climate science is discussed.

Snow in Anchorage

Each morning I walk to the end of my driveway and collect the morning paper while coffee brews in the kitchen.  Today, May 16th, I dodged snowflakes.  Yep, it’s 35 degrees F and snowing right now at my house in South Anchorage.

Two posts ago I complained that global warming had left Alaska, at least for April.   Well May is cold too.   Really cold.   There’s still some winter snow in my yard and our normal summer planting weekend is only a bit over a week away.

The weather man is predicting more snow and a low of 27 on Saturday.   I’ve lived in Alaska since 1972 and this is by far the coldest spring I have ever seen.  No wonder I’m a global warming skeptic.

April was Cold in Anchorage

April 2013 was one cold month in Anchorage.   The average April day in Anchorage has  a high of 44 degrees F.  One April 2013 day beat the average (49 degrees F on April 22nd) and another made it to the average….but the other 28….oh well.  On April 10th, the high was 21 and the following morning it got down to 8.  The average day in April 2013 was over 6 degrees colder than the average April of the last 97 years.

Wow!  No wonder I’m a doubter of climate change.

I live in the one part of the world that is supposed to have been the most impacted by global climate change.   Just look at this chart I lifted from the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007 Synthesis Report.

Alaska and western Canada warmed more than the rest of the world…between 1970 and 2004.   I moved to Alaska in 1972, so I was OK with the new warmer world.  That 5 degrees F made for longer growing seasons, and warmer summers.  It was great.  Only one problem…..it went away.   We’ve had lots of colder than average weather since this chart was prepared in 2005.

The IPCC likes to use observed changes as a part of their argument for global climate change.  Short term observations personalize the argument.  This connects with people, but as a scientific argument….well….it’s a stupid argument in a climate cycle that lasts 100,000 years.  Particularly when natural climate variation is taken into account.  But it’s fun to personalize the data.  And two can play at this silly game…. it’s cold out there right now…and the IPCC predicted the opposite.

I wonder what the IPCC will say about that in their new AR5 due out in just 2 years.

A Cold April in Alaska

I woke up this morning, went down to the kitchen and brewed a pot of coffee.  While waiting for the drip coffeemaker to do it’s thing, I glanced at my outdoor thermometer….and it said 5….that’s 5 degrees F…..on April 10th in Anchorage, Alaska.

Yup, Alaska is a cold place….but not this cold.   A month ago we had almost no snow and balmy weather.  We all had dreams of an early Spring and then it started snowing and got cold.   Where is global warming when you really need it.

If you are looking for someone to blame…it’s me.   My gasoline powered snow blower broke in February and I didn’t get it fixed.  I’m sure if I had paid to fix the thing, we’d be watching grass grow in my backyard.   But no, it’s snowed three times in the last week, totaling about 15, perhaps as much as 18 inches of new snow.   I’ve had enough shoveling.   OK Alaska, you win….bring on Spring.

I’ve lived in Alaska for 40 years and I’ve never seen an April like the one we are having right now.   Every day is 10 to 20 degrees below normal.   Anchorage has almost 15 hours of daylight right now, and it’s cold.

I must fight the temptation to use the recent cold in Alaska and the Northeastern USA and in Europe to rail against global warming.   And it is tempting, but it would be an error.  There is no way for me to know why it is has been so cold.   It could be  air pollution from China is causing the cooling….or it might be some form of normal climate variation. Wild variation in regional climate is normal.

All I really know is…..I’m ready for Spring.