Saturday, July 13, 2019

Alaska Chokes on Wildfires as Heat Waves Dry Out the Arctic

By Bob Berwyn, InsideClimate News
Jul 11, 2019


Global warming has been thawing tundra and drying vast stretches of the far-northern boreal forests, and it also has spurred more thunderstorms with lightning, which triggered many of the fires burning in Alaska this year, said Brian Brettschneider, a climate scientist with the International Arctic Research Center who closely tracks Alaskan and Arctic extreme weather.

So far this year, wildfires have scorched more than 1.2 million acres in Alaska, making it one of the state's three biggest fire years on record to this date, with high fire danger expected to persist in the weeks ahead.

Several studies, as well as ongoing satellite monitoring, show that fires are spreading farther north into the Arctic, burning more intensely and starting earlier in the year, in line with what climate models have long suggested would happen as sea ice dwindles and ocean and air temperatures rise.


Across the state:

For the first time in the 95-year record, the year-long July-to-June average temperature for Alaska as a whole was above freezing, showing the persistence of much warmer than average temperatures over the state.

For the year to date, the Alaska statewide average temperature was 7.9°F above average, according to NOAA's latest National State of the Climate report.

During the last 67 years, Anchorage saw a total of 17 days with a temperature of 81°F or above. This year, 81 was the average temperature for a 12-day stretch in late June and early July, Brettschneider posted on Twitter.

On July 4, Anchorage hit 90°F, breaking the city's all-time record by 5 degrees.


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