Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
Temperatures are generally referred to some kind of long-term, often 30-year average. This is called the “climatology”, meaning the long-term average values of various climate variables. For up-to-date analyses, the period of time is usually taken as being the thirty years from 1981-2010. For Alaska, the usual measure for the overall state average uses twenty “first order” stations in Alaska. These have the longest and best records. We all know that the Arctic is warming now, but it hasn’t always been so.
Now, the climatology is the month-by-month average temperatures for that period. And of course, given the general warming of the planet over the last century, there have been some way colder years in Alaska than the modern 1981-2010 average. Here’s the record of one such year, back when Alaska was really cold.
The most surprising thing about the year was that January was a full 14°F (8°C) colder than the modern average. It would be unusual for one single temperature station to be that much colder than the climatology. But to have the average of 20 different stations being so very much colder than the climatology? It shows not just how cold Alaska used to be, but how widespread the cold was as well. It was bitterly cold, not just in one single area but covering almost the entire state.
And it was not just a cold January that year either. March was 7°F colder than usual, the summer was below average, and the start of the next winter was quite cold as well. In addition, the ice in the Bering Sea was much more extensive than usual, and snowfall was 30%-50% above normal.
All in all, it was a pretty brutal time for people living the state, back when Alaska was really cold. It’s fortunate that they made tough people back then, and Alaska is full of them. You’d have to say that it was a bad, cold year overall, 2012 … I’m just glad the world is warmer now.
The source document is here.
PS—don’t bother telling me that weather is not climate … because that’s exactly what I’m pointing out, isn’t it. My main issue is that if January 2012 in Alaska had been 14°F above the average, we’d never have heard the end of it … but 14°F below average attracted little notice at all.