Tag Archives: heat

Flying PenAir

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PenAir’s Saab2000

I flew out to King Salmon on PenAir, also known as Peninsula Airways.  I’ve always liked PenAir and their Saab 2000’s, although the airline is now under the Ravn banner.  The twin engine turboprop usually offers a smooth ride out to some of Alaska’s more remote locations.

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The Alaska Airlines & PenAir terminal at King Salmon, Alaska

We landed in King Salmon, and drove over to Naknek.  This is fishing country, both commercial & sport.  Salmon is king here.  Anti Pebble Mine signs were everywhere.  No surprise that the fishing communities did not want to see the world’s largest open pit mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay.

We located our accommodations for our stay, only to find out that there was no heat in the building.  Only in Alaska would the proprietor think that heat was an option.  After scouring Naknek, we ended up back in King Salmon for our room & board.

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Inside the Saab2000

Sitting in the emergency row on the Saab2000 does not really offer much of an advantage.  It definitely cuts down on the view.

 

 


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.


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

 


Alaska’s November in review

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Data credit: NOAA; Graphic credit: @AlaskaWx

November was a warm month across the State of Alaska.  With the lack of sea ice, Utqiagvik was a staggering 16.1 degrees above normal for the month.  By comparison, Fairbanks was a modest 10.6 degrees above normal for November.

 

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Graph credit: ACCAP

Sea ice in the Chukchi Sea was at the lowest level ever recorded for November.  In fact, sea ice was at such a low level, that it was below the daily average levels for entire summers prior to 2001.

 

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November highlights: Data credit: NOAA; Graphic credit: @AlaskaWx

Some highlights for the month statewide:

The final week of the month hit the village of Bettles, with a record 3-day snowfall of 28.3″.  That same storm also set the 2-day record.

Anchorage, Cold Bay and Kodiak all saw their warmest November on record, while Utqiagvik experienced its second warmest.

On Thanksgiving morning the temperature in Fairbanks was 33F, which is only the seventh time in 116 years that Fairbanks saw above freezing temperatures on that day.

Nome had no snow on the ground during November, yet Chulitna received 78.5″!

Kotzebue continues its streak of above average temperatures for the 27th consecutive month.


Bear Beware

Hibernating brown bear

Alaskans have been enjoying the recent snowfall combined with some relatively warm temperatures. Been out skijoring without your bear spray? State biologists are saying Alaskans may want to rethink that.

Due to the warmer than average weather and the availability of food, bears have not gone into hibernation just yet.

Black bears tend to start their winter hiatus in October, while brown bears like to hang around into November as they attempt to pack on every calorie possible.

This year, the bears seem to be not in any rush to turn in. Like always, it’s a good idea to pay attention out there, but don’t forget to keep the cabin site clean of trash. One brown bear in the Anchorage area has taken to raiding garbage cans this month. No one needs that, especially the bear.


Pineapple Express

There was a time when I really enjoyed hearing terms like “Pineapple Express” and looked forward to a warm “Chinook” wind blowing through the area.

Now they comes with such frequency, that the deep freeze has replaced them as the rare events in the state.

A Pineapple Express came through Alaska over the weekend. Fairbanks saw rain and temps in the 40’sF. Our dusting of snow took a beating. The ice on The Pond has reverted back to slush.

Bethel on the western coast saw 53F on Sunday morning. The second highest temperature recorded this late in the year.

King Salmon reached 60F on Sunday, breaking their record for the warmest temperature this late in the year.

Not to be left out, McGrath in the Interior hit 50F, which tied their record set 7 years ago.

Utqiagvik on the Arctic Coast will see 38F on Monday, which will do absolutely nothing to help our utter lack of sea ice.

The times, they are a changing…


The ice has come

Bird’s eye view: First day of ice on The Pond. The beaver’s trail can be seen to the left.

For this season, we had the first 24 hour period over the weekend where the temperature did not get above freezing. It came 11 days later than on average.

The Pond received its first full coat of ice by Sunday morning. Thin as it is, one could see where the beaver swam under the ice.

The fire in the wood stove is still not going full time, however. One every other night has been enough to keep the chill out of the cabin. Anything more would drive me out of the building from the heat. As it is, an evening fire requires at least one open window at these temps.


Kenai Burning

The view from the Parks Highway: McKinley Fire

The road to Seward had an unexpected gauntlet north of the town of Willow, Alaska. Severe winds had knocked over a power pole, and the resulting sparks set off a wildfire along the Parks Highway.

The winds were still howling when we went through. Firefighters were on the scene, but things didn’t look good. By the time we made it to Anchorage, we learned that the fire had made the jump, and both sides of the road had flames. The Parks had been closed to traffic behind us.

A smokey Seward Harbor

The high winds continued on the Kenai Peninsula, as we drove south on the Seward Highway. The Swan Lake Fire had been all but contained, but the winds gave it a breath of new life, which closed the Sterling Highway, and left the taste of burning spruce in all of our throats.

Out on Resurrection Bay: Looking back at Seward Harbor

Once on the water, the smoke diminished some, but we didn’t really escape it until we were out in the Gulf of Alaska.

To date, Seward had seen 2.25″ of rain, which is unheard of. They normally see 64″ in a year. The town of Homer had been hit even harder still, with only 1.15″ of rain this season. Needless to say, the Kenai Peninsula is seeing drought conditions.

The fishing was good, and at times great. There was no rain in the foreseeable forecast, so no one had rain jackets. The temps were in the 70’s F, and we all ended up fishing in short sleeves. Out of all my trips to Alaska’s coast to fish, this one may have been the most surreal.


Cooler thoughts


The ice climbing wall at UAF; Camera: Leica M3, Lens: 135mm, Film: Fuji Superia 800

With the extension of these unusually warm temps here in Interior Alaska, let’s go back to this past March, when snow was on the ground, and the UAF students were climbing the ice wall on campus.