Science / Tech.Alaska Town Records 67 Degree Temperature, a December Record

Alaska Town Records 67 Degree Temperature, a December Record


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In a holiday season of extreme weather events, this one stands out: a 67-degree Fahrenheit reading in Alaska the day after Christmas.

The reading on Sunday, from a tidal station on Kodiak Island, set a statewide temperature record for December, the National Weather Service reported.

The temperature at the station, in southern Alaska, reached the 60s again on Monday before falling to 55 degrees on Tuesday morning, Rick Thoman, a climate specialist with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy in Fairbanks, said on Twitter.

“In late December,” he added. “I would not have thought such a thing possible.”

It wasn’t the only weather record to fall this month in towns along the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea. A 56-degree day on Dec. 25 in the town of Unalaska, Alaska, appeared to be the state’s highest-ever reliable temperature reading for Christmas Day, Mr. Thoman wrote.

Tying a single heat wave to climate change requires extensive analysis, but scientists say it is abundantly clear that heat waves around the world are growing more frequent, longer lasting and more dangerous.

New purported weather records are piling up so quickly that it can be hard for civilians to keep track — or to decide how much to worry. Nineteen of the world’s 20 warmest years have occurred this century; last year effectively tied 2016 as the hottest on record.

This year the average temperature for the contiguous United States on Christmas Day was the third warmest since 1900, according to an analysis by Brian Brettschneider, a climatologist in Alaska.

Record heat in Alaska is especially notable because the state is known for its bitter cold and its proximity to the Arctic. Alaska is generally warming faster than the rest of the United States and already suffers from flooding, erosion and other signs of a changing climate.

In 2015, President Barack Obama used the state as a backdrop for a speech that called climate change the defining challenge of the century and recognized America’s role in creating it.

“Climate change is no longer some far-off problem; it is happening here, it is happening now,” he said in Anchorage. “We’re not acting fast enough.”

The recent heat wave in some parts of Alaska was driven by a mass of high-pressure air, known as a heat dome, that has been hovering over the northeastern Pacific Ocean. A heat dome that settled above the Pacific Northwest this summer shattered records and caused roads to buckle in Portland, Ore.

Some parts of Alaska, including Fairbanks, have also experienced record amounts of rain in recent days. That is a problem in part because it will leave water on roads that could stay frozen until March, Mr. Brettschneider told Alaska Public Media in a segment that aired this week.

“There’s been cases in recent years where ice that accumulated in November caused accidents, even fatal accidents, in March,” he said. “So that’s going to be a persistent hazard.”

Alaska’s latest heat wave did not affect the entire state. The southeastern city of Ketchikan, for instance, is on track to have its coldest December since 1933, Mr. Brettschneider told Alaska Public Media. And the Weather Service predicted on Tuesday that the weekend would bring temperatures “much below normal” to portions of the Alaskan mainland and panhandle.

Mr. Thoman, the climatologist in Fairbanks, shared a photo on Tuesday of a bleak twilight in the northern Alaskan town of Nuiqsut. He said the temperature there was minus 40 degrees.

“Winter lives,” he wrote.

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