Ask a Climatologist: Fairbanks records early first freeze

(Graphic courtesy of Brian Brettschneider)

Fairbanks dropped to 32 degrees early Sunday morning, the first freeze of the season. That’s about a week ahead of normal according to Brian Brettschneider with our Ask a Climatologist segment.

Brettschneider said Fairbanks isn’t the only place in the state that has recorded an early freeze this year.

Listen now

Interview Transcript:

Brian: Bethel was actually about two week ahead of normal, King Salmon, a couple weeks before normal. So, places that are having freezes have definitely been earlier than normal. But some places where you normally would have expected a freeze they actually haven’t had one yet — in McGrath and Talkeetna, places that normally by the first week of September, they’ve already had freezing temperatures.

Annie: Why are these early freezes shaping up across the state?

Brian: A lot of times people will think, we’ve had freezing in Fairbanks a couple days early, maybe that means something, that there’s something to be read into that. But there really isn’t. September is the cloudiest time of the year and if you can have just a couple days where it’s clear, maybe a little bit cool air in the upper levels and you can just set up a situation where the atmosphere can radiate that heat outward. So it’s hard to draw conclusions from these discreet events, but in general first freeze date have been getting later over the years. But in any given year, there’s a lot of variability and this year for a number of places it’s come on the early side of that variability.

Annie: So given that much of the state has had early freezes this year, does that give fuel climate change skeptics?

Brian: Sometimes it can. I’ll do posts online, and say so and so had an early freeze and a bunch of people will swoop in as proof that there is no such thing as climate change and people are making it up and it’s a hoax and all that kind of stuff. But, you really have to look at a long period of time and you do see that the date is getting a little bit later with time. So no conclusions to be drawn from one event and one year for sure.

Annie: Does Alaska lead the nation for early freezes?

Brian: Interestingly, there’s a lot of places in the lower 48, particularly at high elevation that will see their first freeze before most places in Alaska. So places like Flagstaff, Arizona, places in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming and places at five or six thousand feet. They could be prone to freezes any time of the year. So that kind of confuses people because Alaska is famously cold. Over the course of the year, we’re a lot colder than a lot of these other places but once we do kick in our freeze and cold season then Alaska takes the lead on the cold temperatures.

Previous articleAlaska hatches plan for vast road network across the Arctic
Next articleAlaskan firefighters dispatched to battle blazes in Montana
Annie Feidt is the Managing Editor for Alaska's Energy Desk, a collaboration between Alaska Public Media in Anchorage, KTOO Public Media in Juneau and KUCB in Unalaska. Her reporting has taken her searching for polar bears on the Chukchi Sea ice, out to remote checkpoints on the Iditarod Trail, and up on the Eklutna Glacier with scientists studying its retreat. Her stories have been heard nationally on NPR and Marketplace. Annie’s career in radio journalism began in 1998 at Minnesota Public Radio, where she produced the regional edition of All Things Considered. She moved to Anchorage in 2004 with her husband, intending to stay in the 49th state just a few years. She has no plans to leave anytime soon. afeidt (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8443 | About Annie