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.
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.