Today, Thursday January 23rd was a noteworthy day for South-central Alaska. It was 48 degrees F at my house in the Hillside area of Anchorage, and we had 7 hours of daylight. The Sun is getting a bit higher in the sky and the extraordinarily flat light that is early January is beginning to fade. On December 21st, we had only 5 hours, 27 minutes and 41 second of daylight. Today we had 7 hours, 2 minutes and 31 seconds. And the Sun is 4 degrees higher in the sky than it was just a month ago.
And that 4 degrees is a big change. As we near the Winter Solstice, the Sun almost disappears, rising to about 5.5 degrees above the horizon. Such is life at 61 degrees North Latitude. On January 20th, we were all treated to a spectacular sunrise. The sun rises at a flat angle, which allowed for viewing like this that lasted half an hour as the Sun struggled to come up above the Chugach Mountains:
We are having a Chinook, which means we have a warm wind blowing down from the mountains east of Anchorage. The warm wind makes it’s quite a bit warmer near the mountains, and cooler down in the flat-lands. Also, there’s a funny bend in the Jet Stream causing most of the State to feel a warm wet Southerly flow of air. The same bend is making it super cold in the Midwest.
The result. It’s almost 30 degrees F warmer than the average Anchorage January Day. Yesterday, the Weather Channel, AP and ABC News all ran the same Alaska weather story. Alaska was on average 2 degrees F warmer the lower 48 states. Yep, the calculated average for the State of Alaska was 24 degrees F and the lower 48 US States were a whopping 22.
It was a fun story to read, but was it true? Let me use today as an example. Today my car thermometer said 37 degrees in a midtown parking lot. I immediately drove the 10 miles to my house where the same thermometer said 48. I have no idea what the temperature was 10 miles east of my house. Nobody knows. It’s in the middle of an uninhabited mountain range. Alaska is a really big place with not very many weather stations.
Today my house was 10 degrees warmer than the official weather station. In cold clear weather, I am 5 to 10 degrees cooler…and I’m only 10 miles away. The trip from Anchorage to Barrow is 800 miles long and crosses two mountain ranges…including the tallest Mountain in North America.
Any single number temperature for the entire state at any given time must be a guess. A Scientific Wild Ass Guess. It has been a warm January. No doubt about it. One for the record books. But, we really don’t know how warm, exactly. Nobody knows. But we can give a pretty good educated guess….and it is just that, a guess!