Drought -- National Drought Mitigation Center


Date of this Version



Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology Volume 51; DOI: 10.1175/JAMC-D-11-0168.1


Alaska encompasses several climate types because of its vast size, high-latitude location, proximity to oceans, and complex topography. There is a great need to understand how climate varies regionally for climatic research and forecasting applications. Although climate-type zones have been established for Alaska on the basis of seasonal climatological mean behavior, there has been little attempt to construct climate divisions that identify regions with consistently homogeneous climatic variability. In this study, cluster analysis was applied to monthly-average temperature data from 1977 to 2010 at a robust set of weather stations to develop climate divisions for the state. Mean-adjusted Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer surface temperature estimates were employed to fill in missing temperature data when possible. Thirteen climate divisions were identified on the basis of the cluster analysis and were subsequently refined using local expert knowledge. Divisional boundary lines were drawn that encompass the grouped stations by following major surrounding topographic boundaries. Correlation analysis between station and gridded downscaled temperature and precipitation data supported the division placement and boundaries. The new divisions north of the Alaska Range were the North Slope, West Coast, Central Interior, Northeast Interior, and Northwest Interior. Divisions south of the Alaska Range were Cook Inlet, Bristol Bay, Aleutians, Northeast Gulf, Northwest Gulf, North Panhandle, Central Panhandle, and South Panhandle. Correlations with various Pacific Ocean and Arctic climatic teleconnection indices showed numerous significant relationships between seasonal division average temperature and the Arctic Oscillation, Pacific–North American pattern, North Pacific index, and Pacific decadal oscillation.