‘Unprecedented warmth’: Alaska records highest December temperature ever

Thomas Catenacci, DCNF

A weather station in Kodiak, Alaska, recorded the state’s highest December temperature ever when it clocked in at 67 degrees Fahrenheit on Dec. 26.

“The temperature at the Kodiak Harbor NOAA tide gauge briefly reached into the 60s again on Monday afternoon and as high as 55F early morning Tuesday. In late December,” Alaska climate expert Rick Thoman tweeted. “I would not have thought such a thing possible.”

The Kodiak air temperature measurement broke the Alaska state record by 9 degrees, according to the National Weather Service’s (NWS) regional office based in the state. The station’s reading was confirmed by a weather balloon launched at the same time.

NWS Anchorage also reported that St. Paul, Alaska, matched a record high of 42 degrees set in 1936 and Cold Bay, Alaska, “obliterated” its previous record by 18 degrees, hitting 62 degrees. The Cold Bay reading was the warmest temperature recorded in the area between Oct. 27 and May 7 of any year.

“The fact that this unprecedented warmth is occurring in late December, when the sun angle is at the lowest point in the Northern Hemisphere and Alaska is getting the least amount of the sun’s energy, makes it all the more remarkable,” CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said.

The high temperatures recorded in Alaska are likely due to a temporary shift in the jet stream, according to Axios. The jet stream reportedly buckled, allowing warmer temperatures to flood into Alaska from the south.

While record warmth was recorded in Alaska, cold temperatures not seen in decades were recorded in parts of western Canada, Axios reported. The short-lived jet stream shift has also ushered heavy snow storms along the U.S. west coast.

“The extreme warmth in December can be tied to the same feature bringing the cold, wintry weather to the Pacific Northwest and Northern California,” Miller said, according to CNN. “A strong area of high pressure is anchored in the Northern Pacific, a few hundred miles south of the Gulf of Alaska.”

“That high pressure causes clockwise flow around it, which draws up warmer, more tropical air from the Pacific on its western side, into Alaska,” he said.

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