Anchorage experiencing warmest March in more than 30 years
It doesn't take long to realize that spring truly has settled into Southcentral Alaska. Just walking outside on a cool crisp morning, one is greeted by many sounds of the season and ground that is quickly losing its snowpack.
Thanks to sustained southerly flow from the Gulf of Alaska through most of March, warmer air has been surging in from the lower latitudes. This has led not only to melting snow, but significant warmth across Southcentral.
Just this month, two record-high Alaska temperatures were broken, with two more tied in Anchorage. The most recent was Wednesday, when the high of 50 degrees broke the old record set back in 2015. Additionally, Southeast Alaska experienced a record high 70 degrees in Klawock, the earliest 70-degree temperature ever recorded in the state of Alaska.
As a result, Anchorage's snowpack measured at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport has dwindled to just 6 inches, a significant drop from the 19 inches recorded at the beginning of the month. As the snow continues to melt afternoon highs will continue to climb, as the bare ground is finally exposed.
What's leading to the record or near-record warmth can be attributed to a combination of weather systems that have been present for most of the month.
• High pressure over British Columbia
• High pressure over the Gulf of Alaska
• Low pressure systems traversing the Bering Sea
With Southcentral and Southeast Alaska squished between the weather systems, warmer air has been surging into the region. This has not only led to abnormally warm afternoons, but overnight lows that have struggled to fall below freezing.
The combination of the warmer afternoons and nights isn't just taking a toll on our snowpack, but also leading to danger in avalanche terrain. As temperatures continue to warm, the snow becomes unsettled, leading to the possibility of avalanches for those heading out on the slopes or into the backcountry.
It's this lack of snowpack, abnormally warm temperatures, and a changing climate that is leading to warmer days. This month, Anchorage has seen 18 days where temperatures have exceeded 40 degrees or more. While not a record, the warm stretch of temperatures have been enough to close the month out as one of the warmest on record. With an average temperature near 35 degrees, this March is the warmest one that Anchorage has seen since March 1984, when the overall monthly average was 36.4 degrees.
Although there are still a handful of days left in the month, the current weather pattern is set in stone as we head into April. This will not only mean the overall average will continue to climb for the month of March, but April itself will start where March ended: on a warm note.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said the high temperature Wednesday was 49 degrees; that was updated to 50 degrees by the National Weather Service Thursday morning.
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