As the continental U.S. faced frigid weather and major winter storms in January, Alaska experienced record high temperatures. A map based on NASA satellite data shows that the last half of January was one of the warmest winter periods in Alaska’s history, with temperatures as much as 40 degrees F (22 C) above normal on some days in the central and western portions of the state.
A high pressure system off the state’s western coast sent warm air and rain through Alaska instead of down into California, which is in the midst of a record drought. The warmest January temperature ever observed in Alaska was tied on January 27, when the thermometer hit 62 F (16.7 C) at Port Alsworth, in southern Alaska. Combined with rainstorms, the heatwave set off a host of spring-like effects, including avalanches and swollen rivers, which carried major sediment loads into the Gulf of Alaska.
Inland, Arctic lakes are also seeing consequences of Alaska’s long-term warming trend. A new study found that 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.
Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.