In Alaska, houses are built to keep you warm in the summer and warmer still in the winter.  So with a record-setting heat wave scorching the state, residents are sweltering amid temperatures soaring past 90 degrees Fahrenheit.   South-central Alaska hit four all-time highs yesterday (June 17), ranging between 88 Fahrenheit in Seward to 94 Fahrenheit in Talkeetna, according to the National Weather Service.  In the southeastern portion of the state, Skagway, a popular cruise ship port-of-call, reached 83 Fahrenheit, almost as warm as St. Thomas was in the Virgin Islands.  Just about every part of the state was warmer than average yesterday, the NWS said.

The blazing hot temperatures are just the latest records to fall this year in Alaska. Residents also endured history-making cold temperatures this spring and flooding and evacuations caused by the never-ending winter.  A mass of Arctic air stuck over the state for weeks this spring was responsible for the chilly weather.  It finally ended after the warming effects of 18 hours of sunlight at the end of May.   While Interior Alaska and towns near the Alaska Range regularly see high temperatures in the summer, extreme heat rarely flares up in Alaska’s coastal communities, which are cooled by marine breezes.  But a high-pressure ridge parked over South-central Alaska is pushing refreshing afternoon sea breezes offshore.   A similar predicament often develops in Southern California, when a high-pressure system keeps firing up heat waves in beach towns that depend on fog and ocean air for natural air-conditioning.   The heat wave will continue for the rest of the week, the NWS forecasts.

The unusually strong, high-pressure system is intensifying over mainland Alaska, continuing the heat wave.  Interior and Southwest Alaska will reach upwards of 90 Fahrenheit, and Southeast and South-central Alaska will see highs in the upper 70s and 80s Fahrenheit.   Yet just a month ago, Alaska was in the grips of a never-ending winter, with late season snowstorms and record-low temperatures in mid-May.  The wild weather swing has wreaked havoc on the annual ice melt along rivers, causing ice jams and flooding.  The town of Galena was evacuated late last month due to flooding from an ice dam on the mighty Yukon River.  A persistent low-pressure trough that remained stuck over the state brought wave after wave of cold Arctic air into Alaska, keeping temperatures lower than normal for most of the winter.

This week’s warm weather could bring more flooding from melting snow and ice at higher elevations, the NWS has warned.  A red flag fire warning, which signals dangerously dry air and possible strong winds, was also issued over the weekend for much of the state because of drier conditions caused by the hot air mass.  A forest fire broke out east of Fairbanks on Monday evening (June 17), prompting temporary road closures.  A 30,000-acre fire is also burning in Southwest Alaska.   The highest temperature ever recorded in Alaska was 100 F in Ft. Yukon on June 27, 1915.

This is a story of extremes in weather conditions and the fact that the weather conditions are always changing, just like other places across the globe.  It is affected by low and high pressure systems that either bring to a region, extremes in cold weather or extremes in hot weather.  If you don’t like the extremes, we have a lot of moderate conditions in between these extremes.

Last year in the state of North Dakota, you had large areas of drought and the farmers had their entire crops planted early due to an early, dry spring.  This year, it is the exact opposite.  Very wet spring and early summer had it so wet that some farmers still have not planted their entire crops and probably will not plant anything more.

This is the same message that I have been saying for ever, and, that is, that weather is cyclical and is constantly changing due to our ever changing atmosphere.  Just think, my state is always thought of as such a cold place to live, but millions of years ago, this same region of the country was a swamp.  So much for global warming.

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