Snowfall figures lag behind the norm

Posted: Tuesday, December 05, 2000

Southcentral Alaska usually sees snow by Halloween and lasting snow soon after.

However, the pattern this year has been different, said Bob Hopkins, meteorologist in charge for the National Weather Service in Anchorage.

"The storms have been really big," he said. "Most have been to the west of us, over the Bering Sea. They've pushed a lot of warm air over us."

That is why there has been so little snow this fall on the Kenai Peninsula, he said.

"They've gotten a lot of snow north of Talkeetna on the Parks Highway. They have four to six feet in some places," he said.

Heavy snow fell Sunday on the bluffs overlooking Homer, and there is plenty of snow at higher elevations in the Kenai Mountains. As of Monday, though, there was only a trace on the ground in Kenai and Soldotna.

On average, Hopkins said, the Kenai Municipal Airport records about 3.5 inches of snowfall in October and 8.5 inches in November. The record on the ground in November was 19 inches in 1973.

The average snowfall in December is 12.5 inches, he said. The record on the ground in December was 30 inches in 1955. Those numbers come from records kept between 1943 and 1987. More recent records were not immediately available.

The present spate of warm weather may last a few more days, Hopkins said, but meteorologists believe the pattern will change. Soon, Hopkins said, the weather should turn colder.

"We're forecasting a colder, drier-than-normal winter -- but we don't have a lot of confidence in that," he said.

It is not as easy to make a forecast now as it was when there were El Nino and La Nina events on the Pacific, he said.

El Nino and La Nina are periodic changes in the temperature of the Pacific Ocean that affect weather patterns in the western hemisphere.

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