Wednesday, May 22, 2013
First Sub-Zero Temperature Hits Fairbanks in Last Hour of October
Break out the extension cords and bunny boots.
FAIRBANKS — Break out the extension cords and bunny boots.
Fairbanks recorded its first below-zero temperature of the winter late Monday night. The temperature at Fairbanks International Airport dropped below zero in the last hour of the month, meteorologist Rick Thoman at the National Weather Service in Fairbanks said. It was 4 degrees above zero at
11 p.m. and at midnight it was minus 2.
“We just missed it,” Thoman said of a sub-zero free October.
This year’s first sub-zero reading wasn’t much later than normal, he said. According to weather service records from the past 50 years, the average date of the first sub-zero temperature at the airport is Oct. 28.
The temperature continued to drop Tuesday, reaching a low of minus 5 about 10 a.m. Twenty below was expected in some low-lying areas Tuesday night. Lows are expected to remain below zero for the rest of the week, with highs in the single digits above zero.
The cold air was a slap in the face for residents of Alaska’s second-largest city after a relatively mild October.
Temperatures were warmer than normal for 24 days of the month, and no day was more than 2 degrees cooler than average, according to the monthly weather summary compiled by Thoman. The average temperature of 28.9 degrees was 4.7 degrees warmer than normal for the month.
That disparity would have been even higher had it not been for the cold air that moved in the last few days of the month.
“Temperatures took a big plunge the last few days, but that only got us back to the normal range,” Thoman said.
The normal high for today is 18 degrees and the normal low is 3.
The above-normal temperatures in October continued what has become a trend in the past decade. Eight of the past 10 Octobers have been warmer than average, Thoman said.
Snowfall was below normal, though. Only 4.2 inches of snow was recorded at the airport for the month, less than half of normal.
The first measurable snowfall of the season came on Oct. 13, which was two weeks later than average. Even so, the permanent winter snowpack was considered established by Oct. 18. That’s the average date, Thoman said.
“That’s pretty good, considering we didn’t get our first measurable snowfall until Oct. 13,” he said.
The drop in temperature couldn’t have come at a better time for Jeff Skeels, operations manager at Birch Hill Ski and Snowboard Area on Fort Wainwright. The crew at Birch Hill started making snow Monday in preparation for an opening sometime later this month. The cool temperatures and low humidity are perfect for making snow, he said.
“We just started (Monday),” Skeels said. “We finally got into that envelope for snowmaking.”
The crew normally starts making snow at Birch Hill earlier in October. In recent years, though, “we’d get everything going and then it would warm up and we’d have to stop,” Skeels said. “This year we decided to put it a little further into the season. It worked out perfect."