Last month was the wettest December on record in Anchorage.
The milestone is driven at least in part by climate change, said climatologist Rick Thoman with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy.
As the oceans warm, more moisture evaporates into the air. Then, when the atmospheric conditions are right for a storm, that increased evaporation results in “heavier and heavier precipitation,” Thoman said.
That’s in part why Anchorage saw 41.2 inches of snow last month, capping off its wettest year on record, according to the National Weather Service.
Juneau also recorded its wettest year on record in 2022. From the Interior to the Aleutians, many other towns in Alaska have broken precipitation records in recent years as well.
Thoman said, overall, total yearly snowfall levels in Alaska are remaining steady, but the season for snow is getting shorter — rain is stretching later into the fall, and breakup season is coming earlier. He said this trend of concentrated, heavy snow in the core winter months will likely continue.
“With the warming world, with warming oceans, this threat of gigantic snowstorms or repeat snowstorms as we had in Anchorage last month — the odds of that occurring go up,” Thoman said.
While December 2022 was the wettest on record for Anchorage, it was only the second snowiest. The snowfall record was set in December 1955 when the city received 41.6 inches. But Thoman said the snow that fell last month was much heavier and wetter than the snow that fell in 1955.
In a year of extremes, Anchorage also recorded some of its driest months on record in the spring and early summer.