Published: June 8th, 2016 , By Andrea Thompson
Alaska just can’t seem to shake the fever it has been running. This spring was easily the hottest the state has ever recorded and it contributed to a year-to-date temperature that is more than 10°F (5.5°C) above average, according to data released Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
How much spring temperatures differed from average during the spring in Alaska.
The Lower 48, meanwhile, had its warmest spring since the record-breaking scorcher of 2012.
While May as a whole was only slightly above average — thanks in part to whiplashing weather from the beginning of the month to the end — every state in the contiguous U.S. had warmer-than-normal temperatures for the spring as a whole.
The main area of relative cool in May was in the Central and Southern plains, where considerable rains fell during the month. Storm systems generally tend to drag in cooler air and cloudy days help to keep a lid on temperatures.
“In addition, when soils are waterlogged it prevents afternoon temperatures from rising as high as they would if soils were dry,” Deke Arndt, chief of the monitoring branch of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, said in an email.
The contiguous U.S. is having its fourth warmest year-to-date; May’s milder weather brought that trend down a bit from April when 2016 was in the No. 2 slot.
The clear standout of above-average temperatures for the Lower 48 — both in May and spring as a whole — was the coastal Pacific Northwest. Seattle had its fourth-hottest May and several spots in Washington, including Seattle-Tacoma Airport, were having their hottest year-to-date.
Alaska, for first time in modern records, had a spring average temperature of 32°F (0°C) — that may sound cold, but warmth is a relative term. That temperature handily beat the previous record hot spring of 1998 by 2°F (1°C), according to NOAA.
Several spots in Alaska, including Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau, recorded their hottest springs. Several others, including Barrow, the northernmost city in the U.S., had their second-warmest spring.
For the year-to-date, the state is running 10.3°F above the 1925-2000 average of 26.1°F (-3.3°C) and 2.4°F (1.3°C) higher than the previous mark of 23.7°F (-4.6°C) set in 1981. In fact, the past three January-May periods are among the four warmest in Alaska’s records.
Year-to-date temperature anomalies across the contiguous U.S.
Rick Thoman, climate science and services manager for the NWS’s Alaska region, said that several factors had converged to keep Alaska so relatively toasty, including persistent high pressure systems over the region and warm waters off the coast. Early snowmelt has also exacerbated the spring heat.
The effects of the elevated temperatures are readily apparent, Thoman said, with berries ripening weeks earlier than usual, very early “last frosts” and an early start to construction projects.
Temperatures in Alaska have also steadily risen — like the planet as a whole, and the Arctic in particular — thanks to the excess heat trapped by human emissions of greenhouse gases. There is a 99 percent chance that 2016 will be the hottest year on record globally, mainly due to that excess heat.
NOAA forecasters expect the odds this summer to continue to favor above-average temperatures across Alaska, and there’s a good chance that 2016 as a whole could be record-hot for the state as well. But that depends on how the rest of the year plays out.
“Certainly, the combination of five months already in the books and the outlook for continued warmth raises the chances for the warmest year on record,” Arndt said. “But it would just take one or two really cold months to change the scenario from ‘warmest year’ to ‘one of the warmest years.’ ”
Greenland was hotter than New York City last week
By Katie Herzog on Jun 15, 2016
Greenland, the Arctic nation that is basically one huge ice cube, is feeling rather balmy lately.
The island experienced the highest temperatures ever recorded on June 9, when air temperature in Nuuk, the capital city, soared to 75 degrees F. While that may seem like no sweat, the average high for this time of year between 1961 and 1990 was just 44 degrees F, and even Greenland’s hottest month rarely broke 50.
But that was then. That record-breaking day in June was hotter in Nuuk than it was in New York City, while a heat wave in April saw warmer weather in Greenland than in Boston.
All this hot air caused Greenland’s sea ice, which is the size of Texas, to begin thawing nearly six weeks before normal this year. The rapid melting of over 12 percent of the ice sheet was so unusual in April that Danish Meteorological Institute scientist Peter Langen said they “had to check that our models were still working properly.”
It’s a bad omen of what’s to come as climate change ramps up: Scientists predict that if the Greenland ice sheet melted entirely, global seas would rise by more than 20 feet.
Granted, Greenland has a lot of ice, and melting all of it could take a few hundred years. By then, Greenland — and most coastal areas — will be gone for good.