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Friday, October 25, 2013

Alaska: Warm temps (20-30 degrees above normal) delay Interior freeze-up, bring flowers back to life

Very unseasonable temperatures for Fairbanks -- in the 50s and 60s -- brought NWS hydrologist Ed Plumb's flowers back to life. Courtesy Ed Plumb

by Laurel Andrews, Alaska Dispatch, October 24, 2013

Temperatures way above normal have brought some gardens back to life in Interior Alaska. And while temps dipped into the 20s on Thursday, they are expected to rise again in the coming days to about 20 degrees above the seasonal norm.

So far, this October is shaping up as Fairbanks' warmest since 1969, National Weather Service Meteorologist Jim Brader said.

Mid-October temperatures have rocketed into the 50s and 60s, the Weather Service writes. On Oct. 18, the high in Fairbanks was 57 degrees, almost 30 degrees warmer than the average high for that date.

Fairbanks has "hardly had any snow," during a month where snowfall is generally heavier than later in the winter, Brader said. And the little that fell has melted.

High temperatures have revived “some lawns ... as well as some hardier flowers,” the Weather Service writes. Hydrologist Ed Plumb’s flowers have sprung back to life, with pansies blooming on his porch that's typically coated in snow by now.

Residents seem concerned they're facing a snow-less Halloween, Brader said.

“Everyone’s into like, a white-Christmas thing,” he laughed. If snow holds off at least another week, it’ll be the first time since 1925 with absolutely no snow Halloween. The last time there was only a trace of snow (measured as less than an inch) was 1962.

The warm weather is due to chinook winds barreling over the Alaska Range from the south, the same pattern that brought wet weather to Anchorage in recent days.

Brader, a cross-country skier, said he’d usually be out cruising the trails by now. But “I haven’t heard too many people complain. The roads aren’t icy,” he said.

Freeze-up in the Interior has also been delayed. Where the ground, lakes and rivers would usually be completely frozen, waterways are only partially covered by ice, NWS writes. 

"The ground isn't freezing," Brader said. The measures used to indicate winter freeze-up show that this is the latest freeze-up since 1938.

This creates setbacks for veteran Iditarod racer Aliy Zirkle, the runner-up the last two years. With the tundra still unfrozen, Zirkle’s dog team has to avoid some of its usual winter routes, or risk getting her four-wheeler stuck in a bog.

She said she is “not panicking yet” and her dogs are still running, albeit less distance than normal.

“November is kind of my cut-off for saying, 'Holy cow, what’s wrong with the world?' ” she said.

Temperatures dipped down to normal on Thursday, hovering in the 20s. But temperatures are forecast to rise into the 40s on Sunday, Oct. 27. “We’re going to skip Sunday,” Zirkle joked.

The normal high for Oct. 27 is 22 degrees, with a low of 7 degrees. “We’re looking still to be at least 20 degrees above normal,” on Sunday, Brader said.

Meanwhile Anchorage set a daily record on Oct. 21 for the highest minimum temperature of 44 degrees. Otherwise, said NWS meteorologist Tom Pepe, the weather has been fairly normal. Warm, wet weather from the south has kept Anchorage without snow, with more rain is in the forecast for the days ahead.

Contact Laurel Andrews at laurel(at) Follow her on Twitter @Laurel_Andrews

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