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article imageBaked Alaska? Not hardly, but Alaska is having a heatwave

By Karen Graham     Mar 30, 2019 in Environment
Anchorage - Alaska residents accustomed to subzero temperatures are experiencing a heat wave of sorts that is shattering records, with the thermometer jumping to more than 30 degrees Fahrenheit (16.7 Celsius) above normal in some regions.
The National Weather Service said Klawock (kluh-WOK), a small community in Southeast Alaska reached 70 degrees Fahrenheit this past week, the earliest point that temperature has been reached in the state, according to records.
NWS meteorologist Brian Bezenek says the records indicate a community in Alaska hit 60 degrees F on January 14, 2018, when the temperature at Annette Island, also in southeast Alaska, reached 66.
Alaska residents are accustomed to colder temperatures this time of year and not temperatures that are soaring 30 degrees above what is normal for this time of year. "Both February and March have been exceptionally warm," Rick Thoman, a climate specialist with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, told AFP. "Many places are on their way to their warmest March on record."
GOES Satellite image as of March 30  2019.
GOES Satellite image as of March 30, 2019.
Cities and towns in the northern half of Alaska, including Wainwright, Nuiqsut, Kaktovik, and Barrow ( also known as Utqiagvik) could see temperatures 25 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (14 to 22 Celsius) above normal this weekend, so the heat is not just limited to the southeastern part of the state.
"At Barrow, through yesterday, they've had daily record high temperatures five separate days this month ... and that's quite an achievement," Thoman said. "This is following on the heels of the very warm, and in some places record warm February," he added. "We now have April or May weather in March."
Melting ice and warming waters
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) records, Alaska has just finished its third warmest winter on record. The heat extended to the Bering Sea - which had its second-lowest ice extent in February., trailing last year when the sea ice all but disappeared.
All this - the decline in sea ice and Arctic ocean warming - is creating havoc with people, wildlife and the economy. Dog races were either postponed or like the Iditarod race, had to be changed because the sea ice that is normally part of the route had already melted.
Crab fishing has also been impacted by the absence of sea ice. Perhaps even worse - two-thirds of Alaskan communities are not accessible by roads, meaning transportation by truck or car is not safe.
Amy Holman, regional coordinator for Alaska at the NOAA said, "In the winter, frozen rivers become major transportation corridors connecting villages. The Kuskokwim River is a primary example of this. The warmer temperatures have melted the river ice to the extent it is no longer safe for truck or car travel."
Thoman blames the temperature shifts on global warming. "My worst fear is the speed of change and being able to cope," he said. "Alaskans are resilient, our indigenous culture has been here for 10,000 years but change has never occurred at this pace."
More about Alaska, Heatwave, decline in sea ice, Ocean warming, Global warming
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