After a warmer-than-normal April, Utqiaġvik sees first record low since 2007

The shorefast sea ice off Utqiaġvik, which local whalers use as a platform for their spring hunt. April 21, 2019. (Photo by Ravenna Koenig/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

For the first time since 2007, Alaska’s northernmost city has recorded a record low daily temperature reading.

On Wednesday morning, temperatures in the North Slope hub community of Utqiaġvik reached 20 degrees below zero, a record low for April 29.

Rick Thoman, a climatologist with the International Arctic Research Center in Fairbanks, said that Utqiaġvik saw all of the ingredients for a cold day on Wednesday.

“At Utqiaġvik, there was some wind, and it’s the direction the wind needs to get really cold, and that’s an offshore wind — kind of a southeast  breeze helping pull in some of that cooler air from the inland to the coast,” Thoman said.

In a tweet, Thoman said Wednesday was also the latest date in the season for a temperature of 20 below or colder in the area. The previous record was a low of  minus 24 on April 28, 1964.

Thoman said that the frigid Wednesday temperature doesn’t represent the month of April as a whole for the North Slope, however.

“Of course, the record low is really just one day,” Thoman said. “For April as a whole, this was the sixth-warmest April in the last century at Utqiaġvik.”

Thoman said that while this is the first record low day in Utqiaġvik in just over 12 years, there have been overwhelmingly more record high temperature days in the area.

“One hundred and twelve daily record highs have been set or tied,” Thoman said. “So in a football game, if the score was 112 to nothing, or 112 to one, that would really be quite remarkable.”

Thoman said that current models from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration call for a higher chance of warmer-than-normal temperatures for Utqiaġvik in the month of May.


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