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Unusual Alaska Warmth Tied To El Nino

The weather forecast calls for more abnormally warm conditions across Alaska. National Weather Service Meteorologist Nick Schwartz, says the persistent balmy pattern is the result of a large ridge of high pressure that continues to ride along the west coast of the lower 48, all the way up into eastern Alaska. 

Schwartz says Fairbanks temperatures ran about 8 degrees above normal through the first half of month, with recent days highs in the teens and 20’s. It’s been even warmer near the Alaska Range. It got up to 48 degrees along the Parks Highway at Antler Creek north of the entrance to Denali National Park yesterday morning.

Schwartz links a stable jet stream that’s been tracking southerly air over Alaska to an El Nino effect.  “We’re seeing a little  strengthening El Nino pattern moving in here, certainly over the past month or two, based on my analysis.”

Schwartz also points to: “Some very strong blocking patterns downstream across far northern Canada, with persistent troughing there, which is really helping to amplify this ridging pattern over the eastern part of the state.”   

An El Nino analysis released by the national weather service last week says sea surface and sub-surface temperature anomalies were consistent with El Niño during December, but the overall atmospheric circulation continued to show only limited coupling with the warm water. ###

Dan has been in public radio news in Alaska since 1993. He’s worked as a reporter, newscaster and talk show host at stations in McGrath, Valdez and Fairbanks. Dan’s experience includes coverage of a wide range of topics, from wolf control to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and dog mushing.