Snow in April: How common is it?
2019 has been the least snowy start to a year since 2016 for Anchorage, as record warmth continues to grip the state. While it looks and feels like summer is just around the corner, many people still remain hesitant to swap out their studs for summer tires.
Following one of the driest and warmest months of March that Anchorage has seen in decades, the question now becomes whether it's too late for us to see any more snow. Historically, April snowstorms can pack a punch, although they are still rare.
The unseasonable warmth that we experienced in March has spilled over into April, continuing the trend of breaking records and melting what's left of our snow.
Snow has been largely absent from Southcentral for several weeks, with the last measurable snowfall falling at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on Feb. 21. Temperatures then were struggling to climb above freezing, the sun was still setting around 6 p.m. and the airport had a snow depth of 16 inches.
Now, afternoon highs are having no trouble climbing into the 40s and even 50s, as high pressure continues to drive the sunshine and heat. It's this area of high pressure that paved the way for a record-breaking March that ended as the least snowiest on record.
On average, Anchorage typically sees 10 inches of snow in March, with a significant drop off to 4 inches by the time April rolls around. Warmer temperatures eventually win out as the average afternoon high temperature in April jumps to 44.5 degrees. This accelerates the snow melt, and any fresh snowfall melts fairly quickly.
Just last year, Anchorage saw snow during the month of April, but not enough to measure. In fact, to find measurable snow in April you have to go all the way back to 2015! April 2015 brought 4.4 inches of fresh snow to Anchorage, with half of that falling on the 20th and melting the next day.
In the past 10 years, just five Aprils saw more snow than the normal 4 inches. Most notably, 2010 and 2013 each received more than a foot of snow, with 2013 closing out as one of the snowiest Aprils on record.
Despite snowfall in April being rare and our abnormally warm temperatures in March, it's still important to remember that snow isn't out of the realm of possibilities this month.
After several days of sunshine and warmth, slightly cooler air is filtering back into Southcentral. This, combined with a series of upper-level disturbances, could bring Anchorage the best shot of snow since February as we head into the weekend.
While the system that bears watching will be more tropical in nature, the subfreezing nights could initially lead to some snow before a changeover occurs. Although it won't be much, it will be quite a change from the sunshine and warmth we have been seeing.
Don't get too excited, though. The Climate Prediction Center suggests that the warmer than normal weather is here to stay for the time being. That doesn't mean we won't see another shot of cold air, just that any cold stretches will be few and far between.
This will likely lead to any chance of precipitation falling as rain, but if the cold air is in place like we'll see this weekend, flurries or snow still isn't entirely out of the question.
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