Mar 28, 2019

Western Arctic Warm Wave Is Smashing Early-Spring Records

Utqiagvik, AK
USA
by
Bob Henson
,
Weather Underground | Category 6
An early-spring sunset over the icy Chukchi Sea near Barrow (Utqiaġvik), Alaska, documented during the OASIS field project (Ocean_Atmosphere_Sea Ice_Snowpack) on March 22, 2009. Photo: Carlye Calvin, UCAR
An early-spring sunset over the icy Chukchi Sea near Barrow (Utqiaġvik), Alaska, documented during the OASIS field project (Ocean_Atmosphere_Sea Ice_Snowpack) on March 22, 2009. Photo: Carlye Calvin, UCAR

A tenacious weather pattern that led to the loss of great chunks of Bering Sea ice in February is now pushing ever-warmer air well into the Arctic. The result is a phenomenally strong and prolonged “warm wave” that’s vanquishing monthly temperature records across northwest Alaska.

At Utqiaġvik (Barrow), temperatures have hovered between 10°F and 30°F since Saturday. Similar readings are expected almost every day into next week. That may not sound like a balmy regime, but consider that the average high and low for March 25 are –5°F and –18°F.

In 99 years of recordkeeping at Utqiaġvik, no March has ever ended up with a mean temperature above zero. In the first 25 days of March 2019, the average has been 1.9°F. Given the forecast, this month is sure to leave the previous warmest March average (-0.7°F) in the dust—and that record was set just last year, in March 2018.

Kotzebue, about 300 miles southwest of Barrow on the Chukchi Sea, is overperforming even more. From March 1 to March 25, the town’s monthly average to date of 20.5°F was a full 20.1°F above the norm for that period! As is the case in Utqiaġvik, Kotzebue is already running far milder than its previous monthly average for any March (13.5°F in 1998). The forecast for the next week implies that this month’s average will climb even further above 20°F before the month is out.