Jan 10, 2017

2016 shatters record for Alaska's warmest year

Alaska
USA
by
Audrey Rubel and Rick Thoman
,
NOAA Climate.gov
Sites of record and near-record warmth in Alaska in 2016. NOAA Climate.gov map. Image: adapted from original by Rick Thoman, NWS Alaska Region headquarters.
Sites of record and near-record warmth in Alaska in 2016. NOAA Climate.gov map. Image: adapted from original by Rick Thoman, NWS Alaska Region headquarters.

In 2016, Alaska experienced widespread warmth, shattering average temperature records that in some cases have been kept for more than a century. Many communities around the state recorded their highest average temperatures ever. That includes Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage, where the average temperature was 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. Some places not only broke previous records, but exceeded them by huge margins (see map). Another first: 2016 was the first time Nome’s annual average temperature was above freezing. At 32.5 degrees F, it broke the previous (2014) record of 31.6 degrees F.

An outstanding feature of the 2016 climate was the remarkable persistence of the mild (for Alaska) weather. In a more typical year, we’d expect there to be warmer than average days and weeks and periods of colder than average temperatures that roughly balance over the course of the year. This was most definitely not the case in 2016 though, when warmer than average days outnumbered cooler than normal days by an amazing 9 to 1 ratio. Nearly all of the cooler than normal days were squeezed in near the end of the year, from mid-November to mid-December.