High winds cancel flights

By November 30, 2012Outdoors

Some flights into and out of Juneau were cancelled Thursday, due to gusting winds.

Alaska Airlines cancelled four flights 62, 64, 65 and 76.

It’s the typical Taku wind, says National Weather Service forecaster Rick Fritsch.

November has been colder and dryer than usual, with more wind events.  Fritsch blames a high pressure system from Western Canada.

“If you can imagine high pressure, almost like a map, and the high pressure areas are like the mountains and the air like a bowling ball,”  he says. “The bowling ball is trying to roll downhill, which is exactly what the air is doing on a high pressure system from the interior of Canada.  It’s very cold and dry and dense, and it’s flowing, pressure-wise, downhill, which means through the Coast Mountains, over the panhandle and out to the Gulf of Alaska.”

Fritsch expects Juneau’s winter also will be colder and dryer than normal.  That’s because the predicted El Nino has fizzled, and Juneau is stuck in a negative Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

The PDO is a measure of the surface temperature of the Gulf of Alaska. In the negative phase, temperatures at the surface of the ocean are colder than normal, he says.

“If you’ve got a lot of wind — like what we have right now — the surface stress of the wind on the ocean is basically dragging that surface layer of water farther out to sea. As it’s pulling away from the coast, it’s being replaced from water from beneath.  And is almost always the case in the oceans, when you bring the water up from down below, it’s colder than at the surface,” he says. “And that’s how we get the colder than normal Pacific Decadal Oscillation, or sea-surface temperatures.”

As for snowfall, he calls it “squirrely,” or hard to forecast.  He predicts “a little bit of snow here and a little bit of snow there” this winter.

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