Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How Cold has January Been?

Through the first 16 days of January, the average temperature at the Fairbanks Airport was -25.8F, almost 18 degrees below normal. Temperatures over the next week look to continue to be cold, though nowhere near records for any given day. A reasonable guess would be that by January 24th the average temp for the month will be similar to the current value. What happens thereafter is yet unknown, but temperatures this month will almost certainly finish up being far below normal. So how unusual is this?

Well, in recent years, reasonably unusual. Since 1976, there have been five calender months with an average temperature lower than 20 below: January 2006 (-22.0F), February 1990 (-21.7F), January 1989 (-21.3F), December 1980 (-24.0F) and February 1979 (-25.3F)

So, while the current cold spell is unusual, it is in no sense "unprecedented", even in the context of post-pipeline era Fairbanks, when there is an undeniable urban effect on Fairbanks temperatures, at least in ice fog situations. If anything is unusual, it's the lack of extremely low temperatures, not just in Fairbanks (low so far a paltry -48F) but anywhere in the Interior. Even the 58 below at Chicken is not excessive by their standards. There has only been one or two daily record low temperatures set (at Galena); most places have not even been close. With a comparatively moderate airmass aloft, that situation does not look to change the before the weekend at the earliest.

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