Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Baked Alaska

While most of the lower 48 states were generally enjoying typical summer weather this week, Alaska residents suffered through a record-setting heat wave. It was just one month ago Tuesday that Anchorage had its last measurable snow.

The record heat was the result of a very strong ridge of high pressure in the upper atmosphere. The center of this "closed" high was located right over Alaska. Within the high air descends and warms, keeping skies clear allowing full sunshine. The high also moved very little during the last several days keeping any weather systems that might have brought relief at bay.

Upper level map (500 millibars, about 20,000 feet) showing the strong ridge over Alaska.

June 17 satellite image of Alaska showing cloud-free skies. Since Alaska is surrounded
by water, cloud-free days, especially over most of the state, are rare. Credit:  NASA

Here are the records set as of Tuesday.

All-time records set on Monday, June 17

Records for Tuesday, June 18.

One of our Alaskan CoCoRaHS observers included comments about the heat in his observations this week. The station is AK-MS-11, Palmer 1.7 WNW, located about 40 miles northeast of Anchorage.

June 17
Hot, dry weather has produced the warmest high temperature I have recorded in nearly nine years of record keeping in Alaska. Yesterday I reached 81.4° F and cooled only to 59.6° F, my warmest overnight low in nearly nine years. Winds reached 20.6 m.p.h. early in the evening which provided some relief. Today may be even hotter as winds are presently light and skies are clear.

June 18
Sunny, hot weather drove my high temperature in Palmer to a phenomenal 83.9° F and increased winds overnight prevented it from dropping below 65.7° F for the overnight low. My maximum gust earlier this morning was 41.2 m.p.h. A high cloud layer has developed this morning giving partly cloudy skies and the wind is continuing.

Residents headed out to beaches and parks seeking releif from the heat and/or just taking advantage of the unusual summer weather. Stores sold out of fans. Those who didn't have fans had to endure, as air conditioning is not common in most homes in Alaska.While for most of us here in the lower 48 an 81°F day is pleasant in the summer, it's a record in Anchorage. The heat also brought out the mosquitoes in large numbers, with some residents calling it the worst they have ever seen.

Fortunately for Alaskan residents the weather will be moderating this week. High temperatures in Anchorage, for example, will be in the 60s to low 70s into the weekend.

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