Anchorage stretch of sub-60 degree days was third longest

A sunny day at Eklutna Lake north of Anchorage (Casey Grove/Alaska Public Media)

Temperature-wise, Alaska has seen a pretty normal spring this year, though slightly cooler than normal for the month of May.

In the Anchorage area, that contributed to the third-longest stretch of days in a row with a high temperature below 60 degrees.

But National Weather Service climate researcher Brian Brettschneider is here to pour some cold water on the notion that it’s been, well, cold, at least historically speaking.

Brettschneider, the climatologist in our Ask a Climatologist segments, says this spring and most recent springs are still warmer than they used to be.


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This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Brian Brettschneider: Well, if you look at statewide, the 1991 to 2020 averages or “normals,” this year is going to finish exactly normal for temperature. Like 0.1 degree difference. So essentially a normal spring by recent standards. But once again, historically, springs were cooler. So in a historical context, this will go down as a fairly warm spring. But as is often the case, you know, when you slice and dice it into smaller segments, the numbers shake out a little differently. So for the month of May, May has been notably cooler across most of the state, particularly in the southwest part of the state. Not exceptionally cool, but definitely cooler than most Mays in the last few decades.

Casey Grove: And did I see somewhere that it it took kind of a relatively long time to get to 60 degrees here in Anchorage?

BB: Yeah, we had our third longest stretch of consecutive days with a high temperature below 60 degrees. And that’s with over 70 years of data. So that was pretty noteworthy. So we had 272 days in a row with a high temperature under 60 degrees. There’s when it started and when it ended, and for when it ended, normally we have our first 60 degree Day on May 12. This year, it was almost two weeks late. So May 25. We’ve actually gotten into the month of June six or seven times, as late as June 13 back in 1973.

CG: You know, maybe if we zoom out a little bit from Alaska, I’ve seen reports that, like, the last 12 months globally have been the 12 warmest months on record, or at least going back like thousands of years. Can you tell me about that?

BB: Yeah, so it’s not just the last 12-month period. So if you look at June 2023 through May 2024, and you aggregate it all together, each one of those 12 months is the warmest on record, and by a wide margin. None of them were close. There’s a big drop off between now the record warmest and the second record warmest. And from what we know from from the thermometer record, from tree rings, from other proxy records, it’s very likely that this is the warmest 12-month period in thousands of years, you know, perhaps, tens of thousands, or longer.

CG: So I think you were explaining this, but each of those 12 months broke the record for that month?

BB: Correct. Yeah. So starting last June, June 2023, was a record for June. July 2023, record for July and so on, and May 2024, even though we still have one or two days of global data left to accumulate, it would literally take, you know, a large asteroid strike for that not to happen.

CG: So now, as we, you know, continue to zoom out, both in space and now to zooming out in time, how are things looking for the climate outlook? Are we shifting climate patterns here?

BB: So we’ve got a number of tools at our disposal to kind of take a best guess at what the summer is going to be like and beyond. And trend and El Niño/La Niña correlations, you know, provide a decent first guess of what our climate is going to be like. And so our initial guess is it’s going to be close to normal. As far as temperatures go across most of the state, with whatever differences from normal there are kind of trending toward above normal. Now, that said, we’re forecast to drop into a La Niña, you know, this coming fall. If that moves a little faster and we drop into La Niña during the summer months, there is a fairly strong connection with having a cool, wet summer in La Niña summers.

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Casey Grove is host of Alaska News Nightly, a general assignment reporter and an editor at Alaska Public Media. Reach him Read more about Caseyhere

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