Temperatures could drop to 50 below zero in parts of Alaska

More anecdotal weather news of a colder and more brutal winter.

50-below-f

From the Juneau Empire, Juneau Alaska

Bitter cold moves in to Interior – Temperatures could drop to 50 below zero in parts of Alaska

Meanwhile, in other news: Roofs collapsing due to record snows in Spokane, WA

FAIRBANKS – Bitterly cold weather slid over from Canada and settled into Interior Alaska with forecasters saying temperatures could continue to slide to nearly 50 degrees below zero in coming days.

Over the weekend, the mercury at Fairbanks International Airport dropped to 39 degrees below zero. Areas in the Interior outside the city were even colder; 46 below on the Yukon Flats, 41 below in Fort Yukon and 44 below in Central, according to the weather service.

Rick Thoman, lead forecaster at the National Weather Service office in Fairbanks, said temperatures rose a few degrees on Sunday, but that was it.

“The temperature will probably continue to go up and down randomly,” he said. “With no clouds and no wind on the valley floor, temperatures are pretty much probably going to be stuck.”

Fairbanks had experienced a relatively mild winter prior to Christmas. It had only dropped to 30 below once, in early December.

The howling winds and frigid weather were too much for several mushers, including four-time Iditarod winner Jeff King and his dog team, who pulled out of the Gin Gin 200, a 200-mile race along the Denali Highway.

For the men, Brent Sass came in first, ahead of more well-known mushers such as four-time Yukon Quest and two-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey who was fourth.

Mackey, resting Monday at the lodge in Paxson, said it was blowing so hard and the teams were getting so turned around by the wind that it almost made him laugh.

“It was almost comical. Your sled was going sideways down the road,” he said.

Further down the trail, when temperatures dipped to 50 below, it wasn’t so much fun, he said.

“There were a lot of people not wanting to put their teams through that,” Mackey said. “It is all about the dogs in a situation like this… They get hardened by this stuff. That is why we do it.”

For the women, defending champion Jodi Bailey of Chatanika came in first.

Several mushers pulled out of the race from Paxson to the MacLaren River Lodge.

“It was a real challenge this year,” Bailey wrote on a friend’s Facebook page. “Winds like a banshee, and killer cold, wow am I glad to be back in Paxson!!!”

According to the race Web site, temperatures at the MacLaren River Lodge were between 35 and 40 below. It was reportedly 10 to 15 degrees colder on the lower portions of the trail during the second portion of the race.

In Southeast Alaska, at least 20 inches of snow fell in Ketchikan, forcing the shut down of the Ketchikan International Airport for a few hours. The airport shut down at about 1:30 p.m. Sunday due to the heavy snow.

“We’ll stay here all night and dig out,” airport manager Mike Carney said.

The airport reopened Monday and normal operations resumed.

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28 thoughts on “Temperatures could drop to 50 below zero in parts of Alaska

  1. Oh good grief.
    That stuff is going to get mixed up in the jet stream and come plowing into the West Coast. The rest of it will sink like a rock on down to the Lower 48.
    It always does.
    We shall soon be globally seeking to heat our homes, stuff blankets in the windows, under the doors and hope this passes quickly.
    Brrrrrrrr.

  2. My question is, [and seriously] how exactly are all these bitterly cold weather systems launching out of the Arctic, when the climate scientists’ Arctic temperature data shows the place is warming? Am I missing something?

    Roger E. Sowell
    Marina del Rey, CA

  3. @Novoburgo (19:12:55) :

    “That’s -53F”

    The inside of my freezer is about -25F. Come on over, I’ll crack open a brewski for you and you can climb inside my freezer and warm up ;o)

    (-53F! Brrrrrrrrr!!!!!)

  4. OK… it’s pretty evident that the temperatures this winter are very cold, in fact we are seeing record lows every week. Just imagine how cold it would be if it weren’t for Global Warming!!! :) Thank you, Mr. Gore.

  5. Roger Sowell (19:50:50) :

    My question is, [and seriously] how exactly are all these bitterly cold weather systems launching out of the Arctic, when the climate scientists’ Arctic temperature data shows the place is warming? Am I missing something?

    Hotter air moving in where cold air is coming down? Remember, it is not temperatures but anomalies that are rising. So -60 moves from the arctic down and -50 comes up in its place. It is circulation. That is 10 degrees warming in the arctic, quite red in anomaly.

  6. Roger Sowell (19:50:50) :
    My question is, [and seriously] how exactly are all these bitterly cold weather systems launching out of the Arctic, when the climate scientists’ Arctic temperature data shows the place is warming? Am I missing something?

    Yes. Accurate temperature data.

    The ‘average data’ folks will average the low on one side of the jet stream with the high on the other and say ‘nothing has happened’ (or maybe Record Warm January in Atlanta…) Averaging hides more than it reveals.

    The reality is that we have a heat engine driven by a lot of hot water down south and a lot of cold air up north. This differential will make lots of snow, rain, wind, and news. (At least until the heat differential is reduced one way or another.)

    This pattern is continuing to follow the expected results from an ozone window being opened up north, with humidity reduction feedback, letting all the heat out. Air gets real cold. Falls down toward the lower 48. Very warm air (from historical 30 year warm period warmed water) moves up the east coast.

    This will continue until the water cools down south. Until that happens we’ll have both record highs and lows depending on which side of the jet stream you are on. Eventually we will end up in a very cold circumstance, if the sun stays quiet long enough.

    All just IMHO…

  7. For the last 18 years my family and I have traveled to Anchorage from Valdez right after Xmas for medical appointments and to see movies. This was by far the coldest return we have ever experienced. Temps were -30F for at least 40 percent of the trip with a low of -40F in Glenallen where we stopped for lunch. There were only a few places above zero including on the ridge heading east out of Palmer and as we approached Valdez.

  8. Cold Bay 55.2 N 162.7 W
    November temps, coldest since 1963.
    -1.3C

    St Paul 57.1 N 170.2 W
    November temps, coldest since 1988, second coldest since 1946 or beyond.
    -1.9C

    King Salmon 58.7 N 156.7 W
    November temps, -9.2C down -9.1C on Nov 2007
    Average 65 year Nov temps for this station. -5.0C

  9. CodeTech (00:00:22) :

    Dear U.S.A.

    We send all that cold air to help with your global warming problems, and all you do is complain!

    Canada

    …and some people complain if you hang them with a new rope!
    Thank you CodeTech…best laugh of the day!
    …on the other hand…there was a REASON I moved to S. Florida!
    cdl

  10. About fifteen years ago (maybe a little more) I discovered that our thermometer in the woods here in the Red Lake Basin of Northern Minnesota was alcohol and not mercury. I had to make slash marks on a popsicle stick to estimate the temp, because the thermometer only went to -40F, although the red had a lot more room to drop. Somewhere between -53F and -60F three times that week. I threw more wood in the stove and went back to bed.

  11. When I lived in Fairbanks and worked in cold storage, we’d fight over who got to work in the freezer where it was a balmy -25F vs -60F outside.

    The one thing different about this year with the cold in AK is the wind. We did not have the wind in the winter of 84 like they have now.

  12. A nice meditation on cold (fifty degrees below zero and colder) is the classic short story, “To Build a Fire”. http://www.jacklondons.net/buildafire.html

    Less than a year into the Yukon gold rush of 1897, London aborted his own adventure and returned to sunny California. He finished the story in 1901.

    I assume he knew about cold temps after that experience. Willie Soon graphs the decade of the 1890′s as the coldest in modern times, and NOAA shows it as the second coldest up to the present. Who hasn’t spit contemplatively on a cold day after reading this story, and wondered if spit could actually crackle in the air before it hit the ground?

    As he turned to go on, he spat speculatively. There was a sharp, explosive crackle that startled him. He spat again. And again, in the air, before it could fall to the snow, the spittle crackled. He knew that at fifty below spittle crackled on the snow, but this spittle had crackled in the air. Undoubtedly it was colder than fifty below—how much colder he did not know.

    NOAA reports the all-time cold record for Alaska (through 2003) was -80, at Prospect Creek Camp. But then that doesn’t account for the wind as “the man” discovers in the story.

  13. Mike Bryant (20:51:31) :
    OK… it’s pretty evident that the temperatures this winter are very cold, in fact we are seeing record lows every week. Just imagine how cold it would be if it weren’t for Global Warming!!! :)

    We’re also getting record highs, in NY/NJ earlier in the week for example, 67ºF.
    So many on here were excited about the advent of a cool phase PDO, well those of you in the W USA are now finding out why it was named thus!

  14. @Novoburgo (19:12:55) :

    “That’s -53F”

    The inside of my freezer is about -25F. Come on over, I’ll crack open a brewski for you and you can climb inside my freezer and warm up ;o)

    (-53F! Brrrrrrrrr!!!!!)

    H.R. thanks for the invite but fortunately I’m not in Fort Yukon but in balmy Maine where it’s currently +14F with a wind chill of only zeroF. BTW I think Fort Yukon bottomed out at -54F (not a record).

  15. Here a quote from the executive summary of IPCC TAR4 Global Climate Projections (2007):
    Temperature Extremes
    It is very likely that heat waves will be more intense, more
    frequent and longer lasting in a future warmer climate. Cold
    episodes are projected to decrease significantly in a future warmer
    climate. Almost everywhere, daily minimum temperatures are
    projected to increase faster than daily maximum temperatures,
    leading to a decrease in diurnal temperature range. Decreases
    in frost days are projected to occur almost everywhere in
    the middle and high latitudes, with a comparable increase in
    growing season length.

    Happy New Year!

  16. “We’re also getting record highs, in NY/NJ earlier in the week for example, 67ºF.”

    I think they are maikng up for it now…

  17. At the beginning of this decade a distinguished Alaskan “Climate Scientist”, in a newspaper interview, bemoaned the fact that because of Global Warming (yes it was still Global Warming back then) he was unable to make Applejack and other concentrated ethanol beverages by freezing the water molecules out of solution during the Alaskan winter as he could in the “Good Old Days”. It now appears that Alaska’s temperatures are returning to the prevailing conditions of the “Good Old Days” which existed before the 1976 PDO phase shift occurred. For those Alaskans interested in connecting with their cultural roots after thirty long years the following table of Ethanol/Water solution freezing points may be of interest.

    Freezing Point of Ethanol based Water Solutions

    http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/ethanol-water-d_989.html

    Here are some recipes for making Applejack and other concentrated ethanol beverages using intense cold.

    Making Applejack

    http://www.eckraus.com/wine-making-applejack.html

    Stills that Aren’t Stills (See section on Freezing)

    http://www.homedistiller.org/notstill.htm

    What you are dealing with is a process know as the factional crystallization of water molecules in the concentrating ethanol solution. Multiple freezing and thawing cycles will be required to archive the desired results. Remember that as with any natural process, timing is everything and care is required with separating the water-ice crystals from the ethanol/water solution.

    While concentrating alcoholic spirits using freezing is in a legal gray area in many jurisdictions, some State and Federal agencies may not look kindly on your retro-cultural research project. To avoid bureaucratic entanglements you could follow time-honored traditions and conceal your hobby but you are now living in the enlightened Twenty-first Century. The incoming Obama administration is going to be handing out hundreds-of-billions if not trillions of dollars in free government money to save the planet from Climate Change. Proudly announce that you are developing innovative technologies to concentrate environmentally friendly biofuels using the natural prevailing conditions in Alaska. Don’t be a piker, the more money you ask for and the more outrageous your claims the more seriously you will be taken and be sure to use organically grown sugars and yeasts as the source of your ethanol. “Organic Biofuels” has such a nice ring to it!

    Mike

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