Even snowmen need umbrellas to survive on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Even snowmen need umbrellas to survive on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

2019 will be Alaska’s warmest year on record, and it looks like that’s going to continue

‘Temperatures have nowhere to go but up’

2019 is set to be Alaska’s warmest year on record, part of a warming trend that’s set to continue.

“Over the long term, temperatures have nowhere to go but up,” Rick Thoman, Alaska Climate Specialist at the International Arctic Research Center, said in a phone interview.

Thoman said human activity is causing the world’s oceans to become warmer, which is in turn raising the temperature of storms coming out of the Arctic. Warmer waters means less sea ice, and less sea ice means warmer air in the atmosphere, Thoman said.

2019 will be Alaska’s warmest year on record, and it looks like that’s going to continue

“Think of the water in the Chukchi Sea (the sea between Alaska and Russia, north of the Bering Strait) in October, that’s basically a heating pad,” Thoman said. “We’ve got this heating pad sitting there, and it’s adding heat to the polar atmosphere.”

That’s going to mean warmer storms in the long-term, according to Thoman. Individual storms can vary in terms of their temperature but the average temperature overall is trending warmer.

Alaska’s coldest year on record was 1956, with a yearly average of 21 degrees. According to the University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy the Juneau region has warmed an average of 4.1 degrees in the winter season since 1970. Northern regions of the state have warmed even more during winter, with the North Slope region warming a total of 9 degrees.

This year won’t be Juneau’s warmest on record, but it’s still in the top three.

Juneau’s warmest year on record is 2015, according to David Levin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Juneau. 2016 is second and unless the temperature plummets before Jan. 1, 2019 will be third, Levin said.

Six of Juneau’s top 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2000, Levin said. While 2019 may not set the record for warmest year on record, it looks like it’s going to set the record for lowest snowfall at sea level. Since Oct. 1, the Juneau International Airport has only gotten 5.4 inches of snow.

A map showing drought conditions in Southeast Alaska. (Courtesy Photo | U.S. Drought Monitor)

A map showing drought conditions in Southeast Alaska. (Courtesy Photo | U.S. Drought Monitor)

“That currently ranks lowest of all time for that time period,” Levin said. “If we don’t get any snow at the airport between now and New Year’s, it’ll be the lowest start to the year in terms of snowfall.”

According to the Weather Service data, since Jan. 1 through Sunday, Juneau has received 58.6 inches of rain. That’s up from 2018 but still three inches lower than normal. The U.S. Drought Monitor lists most of the Alaska panhandle as being in drought conditions, with Juneau being in moderate drought and the rest of Southeast abnormally dry.

Lower water levels can mean higher electric bills for Juneauites. Drought conditions can cause problems for Alaska Electric Light & Power and how much power they can produce at their dams. With less water, AEL&P can’t provide power to interruptable customers like Greens Creek Mine and Princess Cruises whose payments help offset regular customer’s bills.

Thoman said the Earth’s warming oceans was entirely due to human activity.

“There’s positive evidence the warming period we’re going through now is not part of the natural period,” Thoman said in reference to the claim that the global rise in temperatures is part of a natural cycle. “The earth’s climate has of course changed over time. The current changes are definitely not part of any natural cycle.”


• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com.


More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of April 8

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Friday, April 12, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Thursday, April 11, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

The sky and mountains are reflected in the water on April 5, 2012, at the Kootznoowoo Wilderness in the Tongass National Forest’s Admiralty Island National Monument. Conservation organizations bought some private land and transferred it to the U.S. Forest Service, resulting in an incremental expansion of the Kootznoowoo Wilderness and protection of habitat important to salmon and wildlife. (Photo by Don MacDougall/U.S. Forest Service)
Conservation groups’ purchase preserves additional land in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest

A designated wilderness area in Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, the largest… Continue reading

A welcome sign is shown Sept. 22, 2021, in Tok. President Joe Biden won Alaska’s nominating contest on Saturday. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Biden wins more delegates in Alaska and Wyoming as he heads toward Democratic nomination

President Joe Biden nudged further ahead in the Democratic nomination for reelection… Continue reading

Juneau Assembly members and other visitors examine a meeting room formerly used by the nine-member Alaska State Board of Education and Early Development on Monday, April 8, which is about 25% larger than the Assembly Chambers at City Hall. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Of three possible new City Hall buildings, one stands out — but plenty of proposed uses for other two

Michael J. Burns Building eyed as city HQ; childcare, animal shelter among options at school sites.

Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, speaks to members of the Senate majority caucus’ leadership group on Friday. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Schools, university and projects across Alaska are set to receive money from new budget bill

Alaska Senate sends draft capital budget to House as work continues on a state spending plan

The Boney Courthouse in downtown Anchorage, across the street from the larger Nesbett Courthouse, holds the Alaska Supreme Court chambers. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska judge strikes down state’s cash payments to families using correspondence school programs

Decision will become a ‘hot-button legislative item’ in final weeks of session, lawmakers say.

A statue of William Henry Seward stands outside the Dimond Courthouse in downtown Juneau. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Juneau man convicted of sexual abuse of 15-year-old girl more than four years after incidents occur

JPD: Randy James Willard, 39, sent explicit videos to and engaged in sexual contact with victim.

Most Read