Ask a Climatologist: “Astounding” new state temperature record for January

POW Craig sign (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/Alaska's Energy Desk)

Craig, Alaska hit a record high of 65 degrees on Sunday, Jan. 14. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

A funnel of warm air blasted Southeast Alaska Sunday, producing temperatures that made it feel more like June than January.

Temperatures in several communities climbed into the mid-60’s, shattering records. It was the warmest day ever recorded in January in Alaska.

Brian Brettschneider with our Ask a Climatologist segment says Sunday was remarkably warm across the state but exceptionally warm in Southeast.

Interview Transcript:

Brian: We saw a record high of 66 degrees at the Annette Island Airport and at the climate reference station six miles south of Metlakatla, 66 degrees was the high temperature there. And that was not only a record for the day, it was a record for the month, but not only a record for the month, a record for any station, anywhere in Alaska in the month of January. If you look at all the stations together, we’ve got almost 400,000 January high temperature data points and these two were the absolute highest.

Annie: So really incredible.

Brian: It really is incredible. And those are the two highest, at 66 degrees. But I think four other stations had a temperature that would have also set a record high for the month of January. The old record for the state was 62 degrees and Sitka was 63, Klawock was 64, Craig was 65, and those in and of themselves would have been state records for the month. So to actually break the record by four degrees is almost unheard of. It’s just astounding.

Annie: And it wasn’t just Southeast, right?

Brian: Everywhere was above normal, and some of them were a little bit above normal but many were way above normal. Eagle on the Canadian border- their high temperature was 45 degrees above normal. Fairbanks was almost 30 degrees above normal. Deadhorse, 35 degrees above normal. And those places in the Interior, they can have wider swings, but down at Annette Island, they were 25 degrees above normal, that’s where the record of 66 degrees was. They’ve been keeping records for 70 years and they’ve never had any day that’s more than 20 degrees above normal. So to be 25 degrees above normal, it’s just off the charts.

Annie: And Annette Island- those weather stations aren’t just regular weather stations, right?

Brian: Right, it’s a really important note that the two stations that broke the record, one of them is a climate reference network station. There’s about 110 around the country and this is a station that has the absolute best equipment, they’re sighted in fairly remote areas and they’re meant to collect long-term baseline climate data for monitoring and for projections and future considerations, so it has the absolute best equipment and then the Annette Island Airport, they’ve been keeping records there for 70 years and that’s a weather balloon launching station, so they’ve been launching balloons twice a day, everyday, since 1948. When they launch the balloon they take a temperature at the launch and up through the atmosphere and it shattered the record by five degrees at the launch location for the month. And then at about 1,500 or 2,000 feet it also shattered the record for the warmest temperature. It was warm above that but not record warm. It really shows there’s this core of amazing warmth in the lowest thousand feet that was funneled right along the coastal ranges from the Lower 48.

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