Natural Resources, School of


Diagnosis of Extended Cold-Season Temperature Anomalies in Alaska

Martha Shulski, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
John Walsh, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Eric Stevens, National Weather Service Fairbanks Forecast Office
Richard Thoman, National Weather Service Fairbanks Forecast Office

Document Type Article

Copyright 2010 American Meteorological Society


During the early winter of 2002 and late winter of 2007, the Alaskan sector of the North Pacific Ocean region experienced record-breaking temperature anomalies. The duration of these episodes was unusually long, with each lasting more than 1 month: 55 days for the warm anomaly of October–December 2002 and 37 days for the cold anomaly of February–March 2007. Temperature departures over each respective period were the largest for the continental climate of interior Alaska (.108C) and the smallest for the maritime regions of Alaska (,48C). Mean temperatures over the event periods in 2002 and 2007 easily ranked as the record warmest and coldest, respectively, for many surface observing stations. In addition, heating degree-day anomalies were on the order of 700 units for these periods. Atmospheric circulation patterns at the surface and upper levels for the circum-Arctic proved to be the driver for these persistent events. The 2002 warm anomaly was driven by enhanced southerly advection associated with an unusually strong Aleutian low and a positive Pacific decadal oscillation index, which resulted in a large area of anomalous temperatures in Alaska and northern Canada. The 2007 cold anomaly was driven by a weakening of the circulation pattern in the subpolar Pacific sector and a strengthening of the Siberian high, with the strongest temperature anomalies in Alaska and northwestern Canada.