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More Crazy Weather in Alaska

By: Christopher C. Burt, 10:17 PM GMT on November 15, 2013

More Crazy Weather in Alaska

My regular readers may have noticed that I have posted an inordinate number of blogs about weather events in Alaska over the past six months or so. Sorry, but here’s yet another one. Fairbanks reached yet another daily record high temperature on Thursday with a 45°F (7.2°C) reading Thursday morning, some 34°F (18.9°C) above normal, accompanied by unusually strong winds gusting to 62 mph (100 kmh) and causing property damage and widespread power outages.



A spruce tree was blown on to this house in Fairbanks early Thursday (November 14th) morning. Photo by Eric Engman for the Fairbanks News-Miner.

A freak windstorm hit Fairbanks and the Tanana Valley of central Alaska late Wednesday night and Thursday morning sending temperature into the 40°s at midnight accompanied by southwesterly winds gusting to 55 mph at the Fairbanks Airport and 62 mph at other locations in the Fairbanks area. 13,000 homes lost power and as of this writing (Friday afternoon, November 15th) approximately 5,000 are still powerless. A daily record high of 45°F was set at about 1 a.m. Thursday morning at the NWS office in Fairbanks and snow tuned to rain for several hours before turning back to snow later in the day. It is highly unusual for Fairbanks to report rainfall (versus snowfall) during the month of November. Also unusual was how fast the temperature rose on Wednesday evening: 20° in 90 minutes.

Jim Brader of NWS-Fairbanks summarized, "Certainly a jump of 20 degrees in an hour and a half is pretty unusual for Fairbanks. We can get stuff like this with a Chinook wind, but the unusual thing is, this was not a Chinook wind." The local newspaper Fairbanks Daily News-Miner published this interview with Brader concerning how unusual the system was that produced the wild weather:

“The magnitude of the weather system was surprising for Fairbanks, according to Brader.
"To tell you the truth ... this would be like a midwestern storm. Truthfully, we hardly ever get weather fronts here." Brader said.

Wednesday's storm would have been unusual a few decades ago, but it was less surprising when compared to weather seen in the past 10 years. Rain used to be odd," Brader said.

It was not just the rain that was out of character. Brader said 55 mph winds in Fairbanks are unusual, especially in the winter. You can tell it's rare, he said, by the number of trees that fell Wednesday night — trees that had stood unharmed for decades.




The surface weather map for Alaska at 3 a.m., November 14th just hours after the unusually strong warm front passed through Fairbanks. Note the temperature difference between two sites on either side of the front: one still east of the front is at -13°C (8.6°F) and another behind the front at 6°C (42.8°F). Map from NWS-Anchorage.


At one point, prior to the passage of the warm front Wednesday night, the temperature stood at 11°F (-11.7°C) with freezing rain falling. As Rick Thoman of NWS-Fairbanks emphasized, “this was not drizzle falling but REAL rain!”. This indicates just how strong the warm flow of air aloft must have been as it converged on Fairbanks.


Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Mini Blog

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

And as you correlated last month, California is DRY in that time span. Our october 15th start to the rainy season is one month old with not a threat of an Alaskan storm series dropping down the west coast. What specifically is going on to keep that High so persistent, and is there any movement on the way? December is a make or break month for the winter here.
Thanks again, Christopher...great blog as usual.
Quoting 1. 61dogwood:
And as you correlated last month, California is DRY in that time span. Our october 15th start to the rainy season is one month old with not a threat of an Alaskan storm series dropping down the west coast. What specifically is going on to keep that High so persistent, and is there any movement on the way? December is a make or break month for the winter here.


You have hope till the end of March. In particular the rainy season of 1990-91 looked like a disaster until very heavy rains in March, dubbed the March Miracle at that time.
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