After a warmer than normal April, Utqiagvik sees first record low temperature in over a decade

The view of the ice and the ocean from the whale-watching “perch” in Utqiagvik. (Photo by Ravenna Koenig/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

For the first time since 2007, Alaska’s northernmost city has recorded a record low temperature. 

On Wednesday morning, temperatures in the North Slope hub community of Utqiagvik reached 20 degrees below zero, a record low for April 29. 

Rick Thoman, a climatologist with the International Arctic Research Center in Fairbanks, says that Utqiagvik saw all of the ingredients for a cold day on Wednesday. 

“At Utqiagvik, there was some wind, and it’s the direction the wind needs to get really cold, and that’s an offshore wind — kind of a southeast breeze helping pull in some of that cooler air from the inland to the coast,” Thoman said.

In a tweet, Thoman said Wednesday was also the latest date in the season for a temperature of 20 below or colder in the area. The previous record was a low of minus 24 on April 28, 1964. 

Thoman says that the frigid Wednesday doesn’t represent the month of April as a whole for the North Slope, however. 

“Of course, the record low is really just one day,” Thoman said. “For April as a whole, this was the sixth warmest April in the last century at Utqiagvik.”

Thoman says that while this is the first record low day in Utqiagvik in just over 12 years, there have been overwhelmingly more record high temperature days in the area.

“One-hundred-and-twelve daily record highs have been set or tied,” Thoman said. “So in a football game, if the score was 112 to nothing, or 112 to one, that would really be quite remarkable.”

Thoman says that current models from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration call for a higher chance of warmer than normal temperatures for Utqiagvik in the month of May.

Wesley Early is a reporter with Alaska Public Media, covering municipal politics and Anchorage life.

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