Ask a Climatologist: Clear and cold on repeat

Spencer Glacier on a cloudless day, March 11, 2017 (Photo by Dave Bass)

For most of the state the weather forecast has been pretty simple for the entire month of March: cold and clear. But how unusual is that?

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Climatologist Brian Brettschneider said temperatures for the month have been colder than normal for most of the state, and well below normal for Anchorage and Fairbanks.

“It’s been the coldest March since 2007 and the second coldest March since the 1970s,” Brettschneider said. “Only one March in the last 40 years has been as cold through the first three weeks as 2017.”

In Anchorage, March has been around 10 degrees below normal, while in Fairbanks it’s been more like 17 degrees below normal. In addition, it’s been windy in Anchorage with a wide temperature difference between places like the airport and the rest of the city.

“So in a way,” Brettschneider said, “it’s been a lot colder than the official stats would indicate.”

The majority of the state has had little to no precipitation in March. Anchorage and Kodiak have recorded zero precipitation for the month. Is that related to the cold?

“This is the driest time of year across most of Alaska,” Brettschneider said. “So it’s not uncommon to be really dry in March, but to go this long without any precipitation at all is not unprecedented, but it is unusual.”

It hasn’t rained or snowed in Anchorage since Feb. 27, 2017. If nothing falls from the sky by Mar. 27, that would tie the record for longest stretch of time without a trace of precipitation.

“We’d have to go another ten or so days to get to a record for measurable precipitation,” Brettschneider said. “These are records that date from the early 50’s, if you go before that, when records were kept in other parts of town, those streaks are a little bit longer, in some cases quite a bit longer.”

Do you have a question for our climatologist? Go ahead, ask him!

Annie Feidt is the broadcast managing editor at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Annie here

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