Colder temps are in the forecast. Does that mean snow?
To say the last few months have been unique would be an understatement. From record heat and one of the driest summers on record to the month of September that brought an abundance of needed-rain, Anchorage has seen it all. All but snow, that is.
As October begins, there are a few weather events that typically take place during the 10th month of the year. The most significant of which is the first measurable snowfall of the year. Just ask any long-time Anchorage resident — if there's no snow on the ground, not truly Halloween.
Statistically, that holds true. The average first measurable snow in Alaska's largest city typically takes place on October 16th.
That is averaging out the first day 0.10 inches of snow accumulated on the ground from 1954 to 2018. The latest that has ever happened was November 13th, 2002. Still pretty close to that Halloween deadline.
If the snow amount is bumped up from measurable to at least an inch, the data doesn't change a whole lot. Averaging out the dates of the first inch or more snowfall between 1954 and 2018, Oct. 22 is the magical day.
Judging by these statistics, it wouldn't be out of the normal to see a little snow in the coming weeks — but what about this year's record-setting heat?
There's no doubt about it. This summer was hot. Even the month of September closed out on the warm side. The month finished with an average temperature of 4.1 degrees above normal, making it the 4th warmest September on record.
That warmth plays a role in temperatures as we move forward. Less sea ice and warmer sea surface temperatures are two factors in a long list that play a role in the weather we will see in the weeks and months to come.
The short-term forecast calls for a significant drop in temperatures. An Arctic air mass will drop daytime high temperatures to levels we haven't seen since April and bring about another round of sub-freezing lows. But to get snow we would need a storm to bring us the precipitation the same time the cold arrives.
That might just happen this weekend. The cold looks to arrive on the tail end of a storm moving in from the northwest. If everything times out just right, we could get a little accumulation early Saturday. a long shot, and at this point — too far out to have any confidence in the forecast for snow panning out. But it is our best chance in the foreseeable future.
Our weather pattern quickly shifts back to one that favors above-normal temperatures and storms moving in from the Aleutians, warming over the warm surface temperatures of the Gulf of Alaska. That means more rain through the first half of the month.
The month is long, we have plenty of time to get a shift in the weather. Even last year, when September closed out as the warmest on record the latest 70-degree day on ever in Anchorage, we got our first measurable snow before October closed out.
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