The US state of Alaska, known for its glaciers and extreme cold, recorded the highest temperature in history for the month of December last Sunday (26/12), at 19.4 degrees Celsius.
The record was set on Kodiak Island, the Alaska Center for Climate Policy and Assessment reports. Announcing a record of nearly 20 degrees Celsius, scientist Rick Thoman called the mark absurd.
In the unusually early winter, temperatures more than once exceeded 15°C during the day. Thermometers read 16.6°C in the Cold Bay community on the Alaskan Peninsula, for example.
13.3°C was also recorded in Onalaska, the hottest Christmas day in Alaska history.
In addition, the month was unusually marked by torrential rains. In the interior of Alaska, the Fairbanks area has been hit by its worst storm since 1937. December is usually a dry month in the interior of the state because the freezing air can’t handle much moisture.
Heavy snowfall followed by heavy rain blanketed communities in ice, leading to power outages and road closures. He called this phenomenon Icemageddon.
The Alaska Department of Transportation has warned that the roads will remain dangerous for a long time due to the layer of ice that has formed.
Thoman says warm, humid winter weather has become more frequent in Alaska over the past two decades, and it’s a sign of climate change. “This is exactly what we would expect in a warming world.”
Something similar is happening elsewhere in the Far North. A study published last month in Nature Communications predicted that the Arctic climate has more winter rain than snow starting in 2060 or 2070.
This winter, Alaska will still be very cold — temperatures in Fairbanks are expected to dip to around -30 degrees Celsius next weekend — but hot and humid spells are expected to be more frequent in the future, Thomas says.
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