Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Let it Snow

Snowfall during mid-winter in Interior Alaska often does not show much of valley to ridge difference. After all, precipitation is almost always snow, and the elevations where people live vary by perhaps 2000 feet (say, Nenana to Ester Dome), trivial compared to, say the vertical change over similar distances in the Rockies.

That has most definitely not been the case so far month. Here is a chart of the daily snowfall thus far this month at Fairbanks International Airport and Keystone Ridge.

There was similar, though less extreme difference last month, when the Airport measured 9.2 inches of snow and Keystone Ridge 20.7 inches.

Below is a plot the difference in total December snowfall since 1996 between the Airport and Keystone Ridge. Monthly differences have not exceeded six inches, and the difference has not been more than 50% of the total at Fairbanks: thus far this month, the difference of 14.0 inches is a stunning 241% of the Fairbanks total.

Of course, with more than two weeks left in December this difference will likely narrow, but given the usual minimal differences is unlikely to dramatically change.


  1. We seem to have above average snowfall in Tok. I'm interested to know what we have gotten. Any sites you can point me to?

  2. This site from the Forecast Office in Juneau as some Interior cooperative data:


    Scroll downto Tok School. The name is wrong; it's the usual coop observation in Tok. This is not QC'd and is auto populated, so some of the missing data is not really missing, but this is about the best source for cooperative data for data from the past several months. For the past 30 days you can also use


    again, name is wrong and more data missing that really is. But quick and easy.

    Hope this helps: Tok and the Upper Tanana valley has unusually low variability of year to year snowfall. I'll see about posting on this.


  3. Thanks Rick, The first site was perfect. We have 23inches on the ground, normal full winter total is 35.3 in.

  4. Glad it worked.

    Unfortunately, that average snow is based on a large input from observer #1 and is much too low. NRCS snow course data since 1960 (3.6" water equivalent on the April 1st measurement) suggests that mean seasonal snowfall in Tok is something like 50 inches. For comparison, NRCS April 1 average for Fairbanks is 4.5" water and seasonal mean snowfall about 65"