Alaska Ties All-Time January Warmth Record While Eastern Half of Lower 48 States Shivers

By Chris Dolce
Published: January 29, 2014

While many locations east of the Rockies have been shivering this January, it's been a completely different story from the West Coast northward into Alaska, where above-average warmth has dominated.

This warmth is being caused by a persistent and expansive ridge of high pressure anchored across these regions this month. To the east of this ridge is a dramatic jet stream dip, or trough, that has kept the eastern states frigid at times. While it's not unusual for an upper-level ridge to park near or over Alaska in winter, the persistence and magnitude of this feature in January has been staggering.

During the final week of January, the warmth in Alaska reached its peak.

According to the National Weather Service, the state tied its all-time January record high of 62 degrees near Port Alsworth on Monday, Jan. 27. The temperature in January has only been this high in Alaska on two other occasions in recorded history. The first time was Jan. 30, 1940 in Craig and the second was Jan. 16, 1981 in Petersburg.

The average January high temperature in Port Alsworth is about 23 degrees, so the high on Jan. 27 was nearly 40 degrees above average. Port Alsworth is located in southwest Alaska, well to the southwest of Anchorage.

(LOCATION MAP: Port Alsworth)

That same day, Nome, Alaska set an all-time January record high of 51 degrees, beating the old record by five degrees. Records in Nome go back to 1906.

While Alaska was basking in the mild temperatures on Jan. 27, Chicago recorded a low temperature of 7 degrees below zero. In Duluth, Minn., the wind chill that morning fell as low as 50 degrees below zero.

Normally frigid interior sections of Alaska have also seen well above-average temperatures in January. Fairbanks is near 16 degrees above average for the entire month through Jan. 28. Outside of a stretch of very cold temperatures for about four days in early January, mild temperatures have dominated.

(MORE: Current Conditions in Alaska)

MORE: Glaciers in Alaska

Mendhall Glacier, Alaska: Undated Photo

Mendhall Glacier, Alaska: Undated Photo

This undated photo shows the Nugget Creek power house near the Mendenhall Glacier, which was believed to be part of 19th Century mining operations in the area. (Alaska State Library Historical Collections)

  • Mendhall Glacier, Alaska: Undated Photo
  • Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska
  • Muir Glacier, Alaska: 1980 vs. 2003
  • Muir Glacier,  Alaska
  • Black Rapids Glacier,  Alaska
  • Unnamed Glacier, Alaska
  • Stephens Glacier, Alaska
  • A Calving Glacier, Alaska

Featured Blogs

High Wind Shear Rips Apart Tropical Storm Sandra

By Dr. Jeff Masters
November 28, 2015

Tropical Storm Sandra was shredded apart by 50 knots of wind shear early Saturday morning before the storm could make landfall on the Pacific coast of Mexico, ending the reign of this most unusual late-season storm. Earlier in the week, Sandra set the record for the latest major hurricane ever observed in the Western Hemisphere.

Incredible November Warmth for Portions of the U.S., Europe and Beyond

By Christopher C. Burt
November 10, 2015

The first 10 days of November 2015 have seen record-breaking warmth for many locations in Florida and elsewhere in the U.S. while all-time November monthly national heat records have so far been broken in the U.K., Ireland, France, Estonia, Slovenia, and Finland. All-time record heat (for any month) was also observed in parts of Australia and French Guiana. Here is a brief summary.

An extraordinary meteorological event; was one of its results a 1000-year flood?

By Stu Ostro
October 5, 2015

The confluence of meteorological ingredients the first weekend in October 2015 resulted in an extraordinary weather event with severe impacts. Was one of them a 1000-year flood?

Why the Arrest of a Science-Loving 14-year-old Matters

By Shaun Tanner
September 16, 2015

By now, many of you have heard or read about the arrest of Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old high school student from Irving, Texas. Ahmed was arrested because school officials called the police after he showed one of his teachers his homemade clock. Mistaken for a bomb, Ahmed was taken into custody, interrogated, shamed, suspended (still on suspension today, Wednesday), and reprimanded. All of this after it has been found that the "device" he brought to school was indeed, a homemade clock.

2013-14 - An Interesting Winter From A to Z

By Tom Niziol
May 15, 2014

It was a very interesting winter across a good part of the nation from the Rockies through the Plains to the Northeast. Let's break down the most significant winter storms on a month by month basis.

What the 5th IPCC Assessment Doesn't Include

By Angela Fritz
September 27, 2013

Melting permafrost has the potential to release an additional 1.5 trillion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, and could increase our global average temperature by 1.5°F in addition to our day-to-day human emissions. However, this effect is not included in the IPCC report issued Friday morning, which means the estimates of how Earth's climate will change are likely on the conservative side.