While many spots in the Lower 48 are still struggling to reach the first 70-degree mark of the year, Alaska is melting in the heat.

Although March started off fairly cool, temperatures entered record territory through the latter half of the month. This is leading to one of the earliest melts Anchorage has seen, a couple weeks shy of the average. 

Warm conditions are causing snow melt as well as record highs across the state. Many areas have not only broken records, but have shattered them by several degrees, according to climate data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

The recent warming trend has also led to a lack of snow falling across Southcentral. With the doors of March closing, this month will officially go down as one of the driest in terms of measurable snowfall. Both March 2019 and 1983 only recorded a trace of snowfall, a far cry from the roughly 10 inches that falls on average during the month.

 

Numerous records were broken statewide, leaving many areas dealing with temperatures 30-plus degrees above average. 

  • Juneau experienced 11 new records during the month, with a current run of seven consecutive days. 
  • Anchorage experienced seven new records during the month.
  • Fairbanks only experienced one new record high during the month, but also saw three new warmest overnight lows for the month.
  • Utqiagvik smashed records, with temperatures climbing above zero five times during the month. 
  • Kotzebue also experienced above-freezing temperatures as seven new records were achieved.

What's driving the warmth?

For a large part of March, Alaska was situated under three different weather systems. This led to not only the surge in warm air to the state, but also left the Lower 48 reeling in cold weather. Each weather set-up played a huge role in our daily weather across a large section of the state, resulting in record-breaking temperatures. 

System # 1

As February came to a close, a rather impressive high-pressure system had set up shop across the Gulf of Alaska. This high pressure was responsible for several days of sunny skies, pleasant temperatures and dry weather for Southcentral and Southeast. It also created a wild ride in weather conditions for the Lower 48.

While high-pressure systems can generally be warm or cold nature, where they come from and originate can have a large say in a weather pattern for an area. The high-pressure system that built in through the first half of March pulled in warmer air from the Pacific Ocean. Additionally, high pressure leads to sinking air in the atmosphere, which is bad news for cloud formation and brings about sunny days and light winds. The culmination of these events leads is what lead to the initial warming trend across the state.

System #2

By the time the middle of March rolled around, a rather stout high-pressure system built into Canada with a series of low pressure traversing the Bering Sea. This set up created a continuous feed of moisture and warmth into Southcentral and Southeast, resulting in several consecutive days of rain, dwindling snowpack and avalanche danger.

As warmer air continued to build into the state, many areas from Coastal Alaska all the way to the North Slope were beginning to experience or flirt with record highs. As this system began to break down, the biggest culprit of our recent warm stretch began to settle in.

System #3

 

As we close out March, numerous villages across the state have been dealing with sunshine, quiet weather and exceptional warmth. Once again high pressure has settled into the region, this time setting up shop in Interior Alaska. With the rather stout area of high pressure anchored across the region, this is redirecting any storm system along Western Alaska and skimming the Slope.

It's this system that has brought many of the daily consecutive records that a large portion of the state has seen. The high pressure shows no signs of backing down as we head into the first week of April.

The recent warmth is a testament to how weather systems are a huge driver in our day-to-day weather, and ultimately alter our climate. 

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