Ask a Climatologist: April flips the warm switch in Alaska

Potter Marsh and Turnagain Arm on April 29th, 2017. (Photo by Brian Brettschneider)

After a cold winter, the month of April turned warmer than normal across the state.

Alaska’s Energy Desk is checking in with climatologist Brian Brettschneider each week as part of the segment, Ask a Climatologist.

Brettschneider says April broke the string of below normal temperatures that dominated the winter months.

Interview Transcript:

Brian: Certainly March was exceptionally cold in Alaska. In April we kind of flipped a switch, so almost every part of the state was above normal. Canada was below normal and Eagle, Alaska was the only station in the state that was below normal and just by a hair. So pretty much above normal coast to coast.

Annie: Are there some places that stand out in terms of how much above normal they were?

Brian: The North Slope and the Northwest part of the state were significantly above normal. Kotzebue was 11 degrees above normal, Nome was ten degrees above normal- those are really, really large departures. And those were the largest for the entire United States, and all of North America, as compared to normal.

Annie: When you’re talking about ten degrees above normal, how shocking is that?

Brian: Ten degrees is a lot. So for example for Kotzebue for April- they should be 13 degrees on average, but they were 24. And 24 is something you would expect for around, say, Fairbanks. So it’s essentially moving the climate  hundreds of miles. It’s not unheard of. Ten degrees above normal for months, especially in the cold season, happens from time to time. In fact, March was ten degrees below normal for some parts of the state. But we’ve seen a lot of these the last few years. And as they start to add up, it’s a troubling sign.

Annie: And what about precipitation for April?

Brian: Well March, April, May — those are the really dry months in Alaska. It’s not uncommon to go an entire month with little or no precipitation and that was certainly the case this month around the state. There were places that didn’t see any precipitation, or next to none. So speaking of Kotzebue again, they only had 5/100ths of an inch (for all of April), up around the North Slope, Barrow, Utqiagvik, they had just a trace of precipitation and the entire state really was below normal.

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