Bitter cold records broken in Alaska – all time coldest record nearly broken, but Murphy's Law intervenes

Jim River, AK closed in on the all time record coldest temperature of -80°F set in 1971, which is not only the Alaska all-time record, but the record for the entire United States. Unfortunately, it seems the battery died in the weather station just at the critical moment.

Image from hamweather.com

While the continental USA has a mild winter and has set a number of high temperature records in the last week and pundits ponder whether they will be blaming the dreaded “global warming” for those temperatures, Alaska and Canada have been suffering through some of the coldest temperatures on record during the last week.

For example in  Circle Hot Springs, AK on Sunday, 29 Jan 2012 the HIGH temperature was a blistering -49°F, breaking the  -44°F record which has stood since 1917. It gets better.

That same day in Circle Hot Springs the low temperature was  -58°F   breaking the old record of  -52°F set  in 1941 by six degrees.

Here’s a list of temperature records in Alaska from the past week:

Brrr!

While all that was happening, the weather station in Jim River, AK closed in on the all time record coldest temperature of -80°F set in 1971. That’s not only the Alaska all-time record, but the record for the entire United States. Unfortunately, the weather station stopped reporting at -79°F.

Here’s the data feed at that moment:

2012-01-28 14:20:00,1028.30,-75.0,-87.6,39,,,1021.19,-55.3,-57.7,85,1.5,155

2012-01-28 14:35:00,1028.00,-77.0,-89.5,39,,,1021.19,-54.2,-65.3,48,1.5,155

2012-01-28 14:50:00,1027.90,-75.0,-87.6,39,,,1021.84,-54.2,-67.8,40,1.5,155

2012-01-28 16:05:00,1027.40,-77.0,-89.5,39,,,1022.74,-57.0,-68.2,47,1.7,160

2012-01-28 16:35:00,1027.10,-77.0,-89.5,39,,,1022.74,-54.6,-59.0,75,1.7,160

2012-01-28 16:51:00,1027.10,-77.0,-89.8,38,,,1022.74,-54.6,-59.0,75,1.7,160

2012-01-28 17:05:00,1027.20,-77.0,-89.5,39,,,1022.10,-56.0,-67.2,47,1.4,163

2012-01-28 17:20:00,1027.20,-77.0,-89.8,38,,,1022.10,-56.0,-67.2,47,1.4,163

2012-01-28 17:49:00,1027.20,-77.0,-89.8,38,,,1022.30,-54.7,-66.0,47,1.4,163

2012-01-28 18:04:00,1027.20,-77.0,-89.8,38,,,1019.33,-55.8,-67.2,47,1.7,174

2012-01-28 18:19:00,1027.10,-79.0,-91.6,38,,,1019.30,-55.8,-71.0,36,1.7,174

2012-01-28 18:34:00,1026.90,-79.0,-91.6,38,,,1019.28,-54.6,-67.9,41,1.7,174

2012-01-28 18:49:00,1026.90,,,,,,1019.30,,,,,

2012-01-28 19:04:00,1026.80,,,,,,1019.39,,,,,

2012-01-28 19:19:00,1026.80,,,,,,1019.39,,,,,

2012-01-28 19:34:00,1026.60,,,,,,1018.84,,,,,

2012-01-28 19:49:00,1026.30,,,,,,1018.84,,,,,

2012-01-28 20:04:00,1026.20,,,,,,1018.45,,,,,

2012-01-28 20:19:00,1026.20,,,,,,1018.46,,,,,

2012-01-28 20:34:00,1025.70,,,,,,1018.46,,,,,

2012-01-28 20:50:00,1025.70,,,,,,1018.46,,,,,

Note at 18:49 on 1/28/12 it stopped reporting all data except barometric pressure.

Some background on the equipment tells us the likely cause.

The station is the venerable Vantage Pro2 by Davis Instruments, arguably one of the best weather stations available to consumers. I have deployed several myself and put them online, for example here and here. They are hardy, accurate, and well constructed, being manufactured in the USA in Hayward, CA instead of some Chinese gadget mill. They also have NIST traceability on sensors.

The Integrated Sensor Suite (ISS) communicates wirelessly with the console below, and the console has an optional PC and/or standalone Internet interface (for DSL/Cable modems) attached.

This station at weather station in Jim River, AK was recording temperatures in conditions way out of its design spec, it only goes to –40 F

From:  http://davisnet.com/product_documents/weather/manuals/07395-249_IM_06152.pdf

Appendix B: Specifications

Complete specifications for the ISS and other products are available in the Weather

Support section of our website at www.davisnet.com.

Cabled ISS

Temperature range: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . -40 to 150°

Fahrenheit (-40 to 65° Celsius)

Power input: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Console Cable from Vantage Pro2 console Optional

Vantage Pro2 AC power adapter

Wireless ISS

Temperature range: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . -40 to 150°

Fahrenheit (-40 to 65° Celsius)

While they operate on solar power during the day, these units have an internal lithium battery for operation at night and through extended cloudy periods.

I suspect the internal CR123A Lithium 3 volt battery in the outside ISS died.  Note that on 2012-01-28 18:49:00 the data for barometric pressure is still reporting after temperature and other values die. At that temperature, the battery likely could not sustain enough voltage to keep the transmitter running.

The barometric pressure sensor is in the internal LCD console, inside the house/office where the unit is connected to the Internet. All other sensors are outside in the ISS.

The CR123A Lithium 3 volt battery specifications are:

3V 1400mAh Lithium BatteryWide operating temperature range: -40°C to 85°C

So it was operating way out of spec as well.

Some people have emailed me wondering about why the readings at  Jim River, AK stopped just shy of a new all time record. I don’t see any nefarious motive here, just simple equipment failure under extraordinary extreme conditions combined with Murphy’s Law.

Let’s hope the observer there has a backup thermometer, but who’d want to go outside in cold like that to read it?

h/t to Dr. Ryan Maue and Joe D’Aleo

BTW, if you want one of these splendid weather stations, you can get them here. Details here.

UPDATE: The NWS in Fairbanks moves quickly to disavow the temperature report. I suppose the Drudge link has the phones ringing off the hook. But here’s the interesting thing, the nearest other “official” station, PAPR at Prospect Creek Airport, AK only 0.9 miles away, is also offline.

Data Status

Over the last 28 days, no data was seen on the following dates: 2012-01-04 to 2012-01-16, 2012-01-18 to 2012-01-20, 2012-01-22 to 2012-01-29.

It would be interesting to see how they defend an official airport station failure.

NOAK49 PAFG 302352 PNSAFG AKZ219-222-311200-

PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FAIRBANKS AK

252 PM AKST MON JAN 30 2012

...CLARIFICATION OF TEMPERATURES FROM JIM RIVER DOT CAMP...

TEMPERATURES THIS PAST WEEKEND AT THE ALASKA DEPARTMENT OF

TRANSPORTATION JIM RIVER MAINTENANCE CAMP AT MILE 138 DALTON

HIGHWAY...STATION JMTA2...HAVE BEEN REPORTED AS LOW AS 79 BELOW.

THE TEMPERATURES ARE NOT CORRECT. THE WEATHER STATION IN USE AT

THE JIM RIVER DOT CAMP IS A PERSONAL WEATHER STATION THAT IS NOT

RATED FOR TEMPERATURE COLDER THAN 40 BELOW. THE UNREALISTICALLY

LOW TEMPERATURES ARE BELIEVED TO BE A FUNCTION OF THE BATTERY

FAILING AT VERY LOW TEMPERATURES.

THERE ARE NO OFFICIAL...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE STANDARD...

TEMPERATURE MEASUREMENTS AT JIM RIVER DOT CAMP.$$

RT/JL JAN 12

UPDATE2 1/31/2012 9:30AM PST

According to Gladstone and NCDC MMS, PAPR (Prospect Creek, just 0.9 mile from Jim River DOT station, and holder of the low temperature record from 1971) is an AWOS station, part of the “B” COOP network.

https://mi3.ncdc.noaa.gov/mi3qry/identityGrid.cfm?setCookie=1&fid=22862

Details on AWOS:

http://www.allweatherinc.com/aviation/awos_dom.html

and as I understand it, it is not rated to –80F, the specs for the thermistor say:

Ambient Temperature Sensor.

The sensor shall be thermally isolated in a

motor aspirated radiation shield to accurately measure air temperature.

A. Range. From –40C to +60C (-40 oF t o +140 oF)

B. Accuracy. ±0.3C.

C. Resolution. 1 oF.

Source: http://www.allweatherinc.com/pdf/awos_level_iii.pdf

So, given the official equipment there at Prospect Creek, it seems NOAA has either purposely or unintentionally created an impossibility of the Prospect Creek record of ever having been broken there again.

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Camburn

Not me. -79F is good enough for me.

richard verney

Record highs do not confirm global warming but are, of course, consistent with the theory.
On the other hand, record lows run prima facie against the theory; if all the manmade CO2 emitted this past century causes back radiation which in turn warms the atmosphere alternatively slows down the cooling, one would not expect to see any record lows. Of course, the odd one or two could be outliers but to still be setting record lows some 100 years after manmade emissions raises questions marks as to whether the AGW theory is correct, alternatively whether CO2 is as effective a temperature driver as AGW warmists would have one believe.

Do we have a correspondant at Jim River who can take the temperature by some other means, or maintain the power supply to this faltering station? There’s history to be made here…

Nathan

I am about to purchase and set up one of these for my parents. They have a new place on exposed countryside near the coast in south west England. Interesting and timely to see an article about one here.

Steven Rosenberg

Assuming the wind pattern causing the far north cold breaks, is there any way if that bodes a serious winter arriving in the continental US, or is it too late (February), or is there no way to predict?

David L

Lucky for the warming crowd that both the record lows AND the near record highs are consistent with AGW theory.

Babsy

What they need to add to the ISS is a user adjustable CO2 release. That way when it gets REALLY cold, they can blow off some CO2 and warm things up a bit!

Robert M

The cold here has been unbelievable!!! I took the family skiing at Alyeska this weekend. And on the way there my truck was reporting temps as low as -27f. Fortunately when we got there it had warmed up to a balmy -6f.
Now a warmer system is moving in. Temps are above zero at my house for the first time this year! On the down side. It is snowing AGAIN… sigh

Green Sand

Dennis Ray Wingo says:
January 30, 2012 at 3:24 pm
Barrow is headed down as well.

Not only are the temps headed down but sea ice thickness at 1.15m is at least a month ahead of the last 2 years. Will be interesting to watch through to break-up.
http://seaice.alaska.edu/gi/observatories/barrow_sealevel

SteveSadlov

Lots of inside slider systems in CA this year (which has meant, a cold drought).
If / when that pool of cold air floods out of AK and hitches a ride on one of the sliders, CA could be in a world of hurt. Could be on par with early ’91, early ’07 or even early ’76.

Tom in Florida

Have no fear, R Gates will appear
We await his call, to explain it all

Alan Statham

It’s cold in Alaska in the winter, and therefore global warming isn’t happening. A most elegant proof. Well done.
REPLY: Only in your mind Alan (RW), and I don’t appreciate you putting words in my mouth not said. Take some time off in the troll bin. 48 hours should do it. – Anthony

dscott

Since AGW is supposed to show up as higher temps in the upper latitudes, numerous record lows below that of industrial time period are proof of the theory’s failure. AGW is supposed to affect the upper latitudes most of all.

PaulH

It looks like the data feed recovered at around 03:44:00 when it warmed up to -52.0F before dropping again to -66.0F at 15:44:00. The latest reading at the time of this post, 23:29:00, shows -46.0F so that -80F record seems to be slipping away.

Keith

Think I’d be staying indoors if I were in Barrow right now:
http://www.gi.alaska.edu/~mahoney/ABCam.jpg

Andrew30

So what would a block of dry ice do at that temperature (-80 C)?
Would it get bigger, smaller or just stay the same?
Are they eligible for carbon capture credits?

The opposite process is called deposition, where CO2 changes from the gas to solid phase (dry ice). At atmospheric pressure, sublimation/deposition occurs at −78.5 °C (−109.3 °F).
— From Wikipedia

Andrew30

Ooops,
On my last post I have misread the scale on the data (C for F).
Maybe I have a future in climate science after all 🙂

TimF

dscott (or anyone),
I was thinking that global warming theory called for greater effects at higher latitudes. Does anyone have a link to a good reference for this?
Thanks

Green Sand

Alan Statham says:
January 30, 2012 at 3:53 pm
It’s cold in Alaska in the winter, and therefore global warming isn’t happening. A most elegant proof. Well done.

Well thank you sir! Personally I would have thought it one hell of a stretch, but having seen some of the projections you align with I can fully understand your acceptance of this one.

US, in the GREAT WHITE NORTH, would appreciate it ,IF some of you DOUBTERS, would at least be quiet, if you can’t support the Warmistas!
I,for one, pray they are right! Science may not be on their side right now,but I am PRAYING it will be, and soon. ANY of YOU, have any bloody idea how COLD we are,and it seems to be getting colder every winter! -40,50,60 is only a NUMBER, until you have to live in it!
Bless the Warmistas’,and whatever they can do to actually make it warmer!

L.

“It’s cold in Alaska in the winter, and therefore global warming isn’t happening. A most elegant proof. Well done.”
But when it’s hot in Australia in summer, AGW people say it is proof… Talk about wanting your cake and eating it as well…

Rex

Why is it claimed that high temepratures are CAUSED by global (sic)
warming (sic), when in fact they CONTRIBUTE TO global warming ?

Ray

I bet that area will still be RED in the next Global Warming fabrication of Hansen.

RobertM > “The cold here has been unbelievable!!! I took the family skiing at Alyeska this weekend. And on the way there my truck was reporting temps as low as -27f. Fortunately when we got there it had warmed up to a balmy -6f.”
Rang the memory bell here! Spent a couple of Winters in Fairbanks area and appreciate the sentiment in that “a balmy -6f.” After a week or more of -45F to -50F anything warmer than -20F felt like a heat wave, almost balmy enough to take a walk in shirt sleeves!

MaxL

A point of clarification. The article states “Alaska and Canada have been suffering through some of the coldest temperatures on record during the last week” . Well, Canada is a huge country with vastly varying weather regimes. I see this generalization far too often from folks who must be unfamiliar with the vastness of the country. It is true that last week western Canada had some pretty cold temperatures, but few if any records were broken. Now the west (south of 60N) is very mild again, as it has been most of the winter. In fact, for most of Alberta, this is one of the mildest and driest winters I can remember. Broad brushing over all of a huge country is something best left to the AGW crowd.

cotwome

How well does barometric pressure correlate with temperature? In the data feed shown above the pressure seems to be falling with the temperature. Just curious.

AlaskaHound

The Copper River School District cancels school at -50F, as the busses are prone to problems at those temperatures. My son was quite happy to have school cancelled last week, but still asks what’s the difference between -49 and -50?
The permafrost studies done here in the Copper River Basin bagan in the early 70’s, continuing through present and what we’ve seen as a peak in temperatures, ocurred in 2004/2005.
Since then, the temperatures at depth continue the decline. We’ll be back to the 70’s (climate wise) in no time at all.
Cheers!

Andrew30

MaxL says: January 30, 2012 at 4:20 pm
Your from Canada? You must know Bob Franklin, he lives there too, near the beer store 🙂
All the time, many people just do not grasp the size of this country.

Keith

Regardless of “weather is not climate” and all that jazz, one thing that can be said with near-certainty is that the UAH January average will be below the climatological norm. Last year’s was -0.01C, and it doesn’t take much eyeballing of this:
http://discover.itsc.uah.edu/amsutemps/execute.csh?amsutemps
to see that January 2012 is not warmer than 2011.

MaxL

Andrew30 says:
January 30, 2012 at 4:29 pm
MaxL says: January 30, 2012 at 4:20 pm
Your from Canada? You must know Bob Franklin, he lives there too, near the beer store 🙂
All the time, many people just do not grasp the size of this country.

Yes, I know him well. We go hunting polar bears and moose together regularly. 🙂

Retired Engineer

Friends near Fairbanks tell me they’ve hit -60 or below several times in the past few weeks.
In southern CO, we may hit +60. I don’t tell them that, don’t need ex-friends.

Keith

Oops, sorry, that link in my last post should be http://discover.itsc.uah.edu/amsutemps/execute.csh?amsutemps+002

Hey Max. I too, am from Alberta. You have any comments about LAST winter? The bloody coldest, with the greatest amount of snow,in MY memory. By the way, I was born in Alberta in 1945,and have lived 98% of my life here, Hows’ about you?
Coupla weeks back was SWEET[ -32] ,compared to last year. Guess THAT must mean the Warmistas are now correct?

Marc Web

We should have kept the canal and given them Alaska!

Seems like an instrument that stops at -40f/c shouldn’t have been installed in a more or less professional weather station in Alaska. After all, -30f is not uncommon in the lower 48; even Oklahoma reaches -25f at times.

commieBob

Our local weather guy says we are basking in balmy Southern Ontario because the jet stream is at its northern limit and is keeping the arctic air from coming south. Is that why it is so cold up north?

philjourdan

WOW! Drudge link! You have made it Anthony!!!
[Reply: Site traffic just jumped 40%. ~dbs, mod.]

cotwome

your about to get Drudged!

Area of Canada – 9,984,670 km^2
Area of US – 9,826,675 km^2

TomRude

CommieBob, check this for the jet stream position…
http://squall.sfsu.edu/gif/jetstream_norhem_00.gif

Why are we now making part of the station out of black plastic? Whitewash was the standard, then white latex, and now black plastic in the sunlight is an improvement? Why not white? This makes no sense.
REPLY: Note the white louvers below, where the temperature/humidity sensor is. The black part is the rain gauge, which has no color issues. That particular plastic is UV resistant. – Anthony

Don Schreiber

I think they should send Al Gore there dressed in a T shirt and shorts, along with the rest of the global warming nuts.

Ray B

. Either the Arctic is a symbol of CAGW or it isn’t. When it was melting in late summer for the foolish expeditions like Caitlin it was. Now that we have record cold and rapidly expanding sea ice and it isn’t? It (the moving goal post of CAGW symbolism) is definitely worse than we thought..
It must be that all of those poley bears that Coke put on their cans for the WWF saved the day.

Dusty

-62 At Eielson January 1982 48 hours after pulling through the front gate. Had to wait three weeks for it to warm UP to -40 before they would deliver my furniture. Then another 19 years at the end of Plack road outside North Pole. Charter member of Alaskans for Global Warming.

So there appears to be a market opening for weather stations capable of recording and reporting down to -80°C — all winter long when the sun doesn’t shine at all for several months.
Which won’t be easy at all because one must heat most electronics to a higher temperature to keep them working; which can compromise the sensor readings and significantly so at the very low temperatures unless extensive measures are taken to prevent the necessary heat island from influencing the sensors. Doing it well requires clever design, careful implementation and rigorous testing to determine the magnitude of actual effect on the sensors.
Observing a system changes the system. It’s crucial to understand that and to have some idea about the magnitude of the perturbation that measurement introduces.

aeroguy48

WWUT again linked by Drudge:)

TimO

-80??? Been through -60 during the Blizzard of ’78 in Ohio and that was bloody cold.
When you get down to -80, you’re not that far (about 20-30 degrees) from the carbon dioxide dropping out of the air as dry ice and wouldn’t THAT be fun…. (hey NASA, lets send some guys up to Alaska to train for Mars…)

LEL

I don’t like cold weather, that’s why I live in Minnesota.

Patrick Dermody

Here in McMurdo station Antarctica it is summer (-2f), however our stations (Campbell and Costal) over the winter often withstand temps and windchill colder that -80f. During the winter the system switches to transmitting only twice a day vice every 15 min. The battery is probably the problem.