Alaska is the coldest state in the United States, but this holiday season, that wasn’t the case. The state set a new record of 67 degrees, which shattered the previous record by 9 places! And this is despite there only being 6 hours of sunlight.
It’s not just Alaska that has been seeing unusual temperatures. On average, the south is 35 degrees above normal, while the north is 25 degrees below the norm. Or to put it another way, the extremes are getting more extreme for this time of the year.
And the temperature isn’t the only record being broken in Alaska.
It’s The Wettest Month Ever in Alaska
Normally, it would be snowing in Alaska, but the higher temperatures are making that impossible.
Instead, there is a mixture of rain and snow (liquid-equivalent precipitation) resulting in 1.93 inches in a single day. This became the wettest day in December for the state. It also became the third wettest day in history for the winter.
For reference, during the entire month of December, 4.75 inches of precipitation fell. Making it the wettest month in December and the second wettest month between November to April (winter).
Normally, the average for Fairbanks is just slightly over half an inch, meaning that this was nearly ten times higher than normal.
The reason this is happening is actually pretty simple. Warmer air can hold more moisture. With the temperature being higher than normal, there was more precipitation that could be stored and released.
This is also why major tropical storm systems only form closer to the equator…because it is hotter.
Caribou At Risk
While most think of polar bears and penguins as the only wildlife in colder regions, that is not the case. Alaska is home to caribou, and these temperatures are not good for them. And neither is the wetness.
The higher temperatures will cause more forest fires, which will limit the caribou’s food source. As they avoid forests that have not been around for 50 years. The wetter weather also means that more insects will be present.
Caribou and other animals are a natural target for insects, adding to their discomfort. Ultimately, the temperature will have an impact on the caribou and other wildlife.
Is This The New Norm?
While it’s hard to say for sure that this is likely the new norm, it will continue to change as the temperature continues to increase. On the flip side, if CO2 emissions were to see a significant reduction, perhaps it could return to the way it was.
That said, that would mean carbon removal technology would need to be perfected and implemented on a large scale.
Climate change is not something in the future, it is happening now, and this is just one result of it. Our weather patterns are changing and colder places like Alaska and the other Arctic regions are all getting warmer.
And at an alarming rate!
This will have another huge consequence: rising sea levels. As the ice sheets in these areas melt, that water needs to go somewhere, and that somewhere is the ocean. This puts coastal regions at risk around the world.
Thus a temperature increase puts nearly a billion people at risk for displacement.
Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.