Tag Archives: cold

The mukluks hit the snow

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Toksook Bay, Alaska; Photo credit: U.S. Census

The U.S. Census starts its official count today, January 21, in Toksook Bay, Alaska.  Since 1960, the first census year after Alaska became a state, the census has started in Alaska.

With 80% of Alaska communities not on the road system, and with many villages without extensive internet service, the census starts early in Alaska.  Getting around remote Alaska is much easier when the ground is frozen.  Also, it is much more difficult to count people,  after many residents of Bush Alaska head out to their fish camps.

Thus the mid-winter start to the counting in Alaska.

I have a friend who was assigned to Toksook Bay as she works for the Census Bureau this season.  I hope she has a wonderful experience.  The first person interviewed by the Census is always a village elder.  That first village varies, with the Alaska Federation of Natives deciding which village will be initially enumerated.

Toksook Bay is a coastal village on the Bering Sea.

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This will be the 24th Census taken in the United States, with the first taking place in 1790.  The majority of the country will see census forms start to show up in March.


Frosty

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Looking out on a Forty Below World

 


Ignore at your own peril

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Forty Below brings calls about frozen pipes when you work construction.  I’m not a plumber by trade, but when Fairbanks hits a cold snap, there are not enough plumbers or heating guys in the north for all of the calls.  I don’t go out of my way to do these jobs, but if one of my regulars tracks me down, I’m not going to give them the cold shoulder.

The pictured cat belongs to one of my regular customers, and she does not like to be ignored.  This was not the first time I’ve ignored this cat, only to have it leap upon my back, or shoulder, or use my leg as a scratching post.  A thick work shirt is required here.

The cat is a curious creature: always fascinated with the work I’m doing, the tools of the job, and the materials needed.  A newly opened wall is an invitation to a new adventure, and a ladder, of any kind, causes a race to the top.

The house also comes with a dog.  The dog is not curious.  In fact, the dog is a bit of a coward.  Any work I do, sends it off shivering to the farthest corner of the house from where I’m working.  The shivering often comes with a lot of whining.  In the summer, I can let the dog outside, but at Forty Below, I’m stuck with the high pitched soundtrack coming from the corner.

First time in my life I find myself less of a dog-person.

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Alaska was warm in 2019

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Graph by ACCAP/@AlaskaWx

Across the state, Alaskan cities and villages saw their warmest year ever recorded.  Utqiagvik, Kotzebue, Fairbanks, Anchorage, Bethel, Kodiak and Cold Bay, all saw record warmth in 2019 as a whole.  For the first time since recording began, Fairbanks had an average temperature above freezing.

Juneau had a record number of days of 70F or higher, which was enough to give the capital city their third warmest year.

Across the state we set 326 new record highs, as opposed to just 12 record lows.

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Graph credit: NOAA, ACCAP, @AlaskaWx

Statewide, Alaska had 87% of its days above normal, with only 13% of days with below normal temps.  Normal is based on 1981-2010 averages.

The tail end of December did see a dip in temps, at least in the Interior and northern regions.  Sea ice has finally started to extend, although the amount is still lower than what we had at this point in 2019.

The temperature at the Anchorage International Airport fell to -10F on Sunday morning.  That is the first time Anchorage has seen minus ten in 3 years.


December 2019: Cold Snap

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Map credit: National Weather Service & NOAA

Interior Alaska had a decent cold snap drop in for the Winter Solstice and Christmas holiday.  From December 17-28, Fairbanks did not see temperatures climb above zero.  By Alaska standards, the period was neither long nor extreme, but we did make some ice, as they say.  For comparison sake:  The 11 day streak of below zero is tied for 42nd longest in the past 50 years. *

The Koyukuk & Yukon River Valleys saw the largest drops, as Allakaket and Manley Hot Springs fell to -60F and -65F respectively.  The Manley temp was the coldest officially recorded in Alaska since Fort Yukon dipped to -66F in 2012.

Fairbanks officially reached -40F for the first time this season on Dec 27.  That was the only day it dropped down to -40 at the cabin, as well.  We had not seen -40F in Fairbanks since January 12, 2019, which is quite the stretch for us.

On December 28, the Deadhorse airport combined -38F temperatures with a 21 mph breeze, to offer a -73 degree windchill to residents of Prudhoe Bay.

No record lows were set during the 11 day period.  The record low statewide for the month of December is -72F, which happened in Chicken, Alaska on New Year’s Eve of 1999.

In spite of the cold snap, there is little doubt that 2019 will be the warmest on record for Alaska.  Currently, the temp outside the cabin remains above zero, some birch logs are smoldering in the wood stove, and a window is open, as I type this out, dressed in shorts and a t-shirt.

Interior Cabin Life.

*@AlaskaWx 


3 hours, 40 minutes

A video of time-lapse photos by Fairbanks photographer Eric Muehling.  3 hours and 40 minutes compressed into 1 minute and 15 seconds.  The interval between each photograph is 10 seconds.

Now the pendulum swings back, and we start to gain daylight once again.  Life in the Far North.


Temperature Inversions

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Still open water on the Chena River, downtown Fairbanks

One of the endearing quirks of Fairbanks is the temperature inversions we experience every winter.

On Monday morning, the bottom of Goldstream Valley was -15F, while the top of Cleary Summit was +27F.

That’s a 42F degree differential from two places only 15 road miles apart, but a 900′ elevation gain.

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Temps around Fairbanks Monday morning; Map credit: @AlaskaWx


55 Degree Swing

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Overflow on Goldstream Creek

Last Friday morning the temp at the cabin was -30F.  On Tuesday morning the temp was +25F.  So as many in the Lower 48 experience cooler temps, we in Interior Alaska are back in sweatshirts.  In fact, I even saw someone breaking out the shorts on Tuesday.

I haven’t gone that far yet, but I do have at least one open window.


Winter Warmup

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Map and data credit: NOAA

It isn’t a figment of Alaskans’ imagination: Alaska’s winters are indeed warmer.  Winter months (December through February) have seen a substantial rise in average temperatures over the past fifty years.  The northern part of the state has seen the largest increase, with a 9.0 to 9.2F degree rise, but the entire state is under a warming trend.

 

Nome Sea Ice:

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Data credit: UAF, ACCAP, NOAA, @AlaskaWx

Sea ice off the coast of Nome, Alaska is nonexistent in December, defying the historical record.  Everything but recent history, that is.  The drop off the statistical edge that the graph shows is pretty eye-opening.

The Port of Nome was open and operating at the end of November, which is the latest that has happened on record.

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Nome “Ice” Cam

 


Bridge Over Frigid Waters

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Walking bridge across the Chena River

Thursday morning was just a tad chilly in Interior Alaska.  Fort Yukon dropped to -45F.  The record low for the date in Fort Yukon is -68F, so it’s still balmy from that vantage point.

The Fairbanks airport hit -20F at 8am on Thursday.  The first time we had officially dropped to -20 for the season.  We are 2-1/2 weeks late (November 19) from the average first -20 of the season, but we are still 10 days earlier than in 2018.

The temp at the cabin at 8am was -26F on Thursday.