Melting winter wonderland: Warm peninsula temperatures not here to stay

Posted: Tuesday, January 04, 2011

While the current temperatures may seem like a mini-heat wave compared to December's colder-than-average stats they're not expected to last, the National Weather Service says.

Photo By M. Scott Moon
Photo By M. Scott Moon
Snow piles in drifts alongside a fence bordering the Hermansen/Miller house, built on the bluff in Kenai in 1916. This winter has seen a little of everything. Forecasters are calling for cooler weather next week.

"In another week or so we may be getting back into a cooler pattern," said Neil Murakami, a forecaster at the National Weather Service in Anchorage.

Southcentral Alaska's almost balmy above-freezing weather can be attributed to a low-pressure area over the Bering Sea, Murakami said.

Last month, there was a high-pressure area over the Bering Sea and an area of lower pressure over mainland Alaska into western Canada that was causing cold air from the north to come across the mainland.

This month that system flip-flopped and flow started coming up from the south causing warmer temperatures, chinook winds and some snow, he said.

But the pressure is building again and with that comes temperature drops.

"We're starting to build a high pressure area over western Alaska that may put us back in a colder pattern where the snow comes mainly from the north," he said.

According to Sam Albanese, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Anchorage, said this type of winter warming is not unusual at all.

"It's quite normal to see this midwinter thaw or warming events like this," he said. "Quite often it's odd to not see this."

Although this year is a La Nina cycle, which typically means cooler and wetter weather for that year, it really is not a good indicator for how the rest of the winter will be.

In a recent studies by the National Weather Service in Anchorage the majority of La Nina years were colder than average but a few were warmer than average, Albanese said.

"What does it definitively mean? Really nothing," he said.

And that goes the same for armchair meteorologists that may try to predict the winter based on the summer's mostly gloomy conditions.

"There's really no correlation on what happens in the summer and what happens in the winter," Murakami said. "Just because we may have had a wet, cloudy summer doesn't mean anything significant with what's going to happen in the winter."

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at

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