Chilly Alaskan weather could affect Northwest

THURSDAY, DEC. 1, 2011

Since Nov. 19 and 20, when temperatures were only in the 20s across the Inland Northwest, readings have climbed to above-normal levels.

It was a frigid 24 degrees on Nov. 19, but quickly warmed to 56 degrees on Nov. 23 and a relatively mild 50 on Nov. 27. The normal highs at this time of year are around the mid-30s.

There are many people in Alaska who would love our weather. Last month, Fairbanks had its second coldest morning for so early in the season on Nov. 17, when the mercury plunged to minus 41 at 6:29 a.m. This broke the previous low for the date of minus 39 set back in 1969.

The earliest minus 40 reading or colder in November in Fairbanks was the minus 41 on Nov. 5, 1907.

In an area outside of Fairbanks, the town of Tok reported a record November low reading of minus 47 degrees, also on the 17th.

“Sometimes we can go an entire winter season in Fairbanks without hitting minus 40 degrees,” said Dan Hancock, the Fairbanks meteorologist at the National Weather Service.

With all of the lakes in Alaska north of Anchorage solidly-frozen over, ice road truckers are already taking their 18-wheelers north to Prudhoe Bay, well above the Arctic Circle.

When Alaska gets record cold, there are many occasions when that frigid air works its way southward into our area. The key to our winter may be centered around the upcoming full moon lunar phase of Dec. 10-17.

The current long-range computer models project that a strong ridge of high pressure will mostly dominate the Western U.S. for the next 10 days or so. There may be a day or two when a storm sneaks in over the ridge, but the overall pattern through the end of next week looks drier than normal.

Our current La Niña, the cooler than normal sea-surface temperature event in the south-central Pacific Ocean, has weakened a bit over the last several weeks. And, solar activity continues to climb. If the strong ridge of high pressure holds on into the middle of this month, then our winter forecasts may have to be revised. In other words, we would likely receive less moisture which also would mean less snow. If the ridge breaks down or moves to the east, then the chances of a normal snowy winter season increase.

Contact meteorologist Randy Mann at randy@longrange weather.com.

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