Alaska and Northwestern Canada quarterly climate impacts and outlook: March 2017

Weather and Climate Highlights and Impacts, December 2016 to February 2017; Climate Outlook April 2017 to June 2017

climate and weather events which occurred between December 2016 and February 2017
Long description

Figure 1 shows significant climate and weather events which occurred between December 2016 and February 2017

  • North SLOPE: Utqiaġvik (Barrow) experienced the warmest winter on record. The average temperature was 2.1°F (-18.9°C).
  • Fairbanks: 240% of normal snowfall. (73.2”/186 cm). 4th highest winter total.
  • Anchorage: Only 9 days with max above freezing. Lowest total since ‘98-’99. Iditarod start moved to Fairbanks due to low snow in the Alaska Range.
  • Bristol Bay:  Sea ice cover is more extensive and persistent than the last three years.
  • NWT: Significantly milder than normal with all stations recording average winter temperatures 3.4 to 4.6 degrees °C (6-8°F) warmer than normal.
  • Yukon: Heavy snow and poor visibility forced the closure of several highways Feb. 13-14.
  • Watson Lake: Driest winter  since 1939 with only 39% of normal precipitation.
  • Ft. Nelson: Average winter temperature of -14.0°C /7°F was 4.1 degrees warmer than average, making this 4th warmest winter on record since 1938.

Temperature & Precipitation, December 2016 to February 2017

Long description

Figure 2: Total precipitation for Alaska and NW Canada.  The map shows that the Aleutian Islands and much of northern Alaska and the Yukon along with north eastern NWT were wetter than normal.  The south Alaska coast and Southwestern NWT were drier than normal with other regions being near normal.

Location Total Precipitation (In) Total Precipitation (mm)
Anchorage 3.90 99
Beetles 3.25 83
Bethel 2.65 67
Burwash 1.20 31
Cold Bay 12.65 321
Dawson 2.40 61
Deadhorse N/A N/A
Fairbanks 4.16 106
Fort Liard N/A N/A
Fort Nelson 1.86 47
Fort Simpson 1.30 33
Fort St. John 2.54 65
Gulkana 3.89 99
Inuvik 1.97 50
Juneau 17.31 440
Ketchikan 38.11 968
King Salmon 3.16 80
Kiodiak 9.65 245
Kotzebue 2.33 59
McGrath 2.17 55
Nome 2.82 72
Norman Wells 3.87 98
Northway 1.16 30
Old Crow 1.98 50
Utqiagvik (Barrow) 0.89 23
Watson Lake 1.16 29
Whitehorse N/A N/A
Yakutat 29.53 750
Long description

Figure 3: Mean temperature for period of December 2016 to January 2017 for Alaska and NW Canada.  The map shows that the all of western NWT, the NE corner of BC, the Yukon along the NWT border, and the north coast of Alaska were above normal temperature.  The region along Cook Inlet of Alaska into the Alaska Range was below normal temperature for the period.

Location Mean Temperature (°F) Mean Temperature (°C) 
Anchorage 16.1 -8.8
Beetles -7.6 -22.0
Bethel 8.7 -12.9
Burwash -2.0 -18.9
Cold Bay 29.1 -1.6
Dawson -11.7 -24.3
Deadhorse -7.9 -22.2
Fairbanks -5.7 -21.0
Fort Liard -3.4 -15.9
Fort Nelson 6.8 -14.0
Fort Simpson -2.2 -19.0
Fort St. John 14.5 -9.7
Gulkana -9.9 -23.3
Inuvik -5.6 -20.9
Juneau 28.5 -1.9
Ketchikan 33.5 0.8
King Salmon 15.8 -9.0
Kiodiak 29.9 -1.2
Kotzebue -0.4 -18.0
McGrath -1.9 -18.9
Nome 7.0 -13.9
Norman Wells -6.2 -21.2
Northway -9.9 -23.3
Old Crow -12.3 -24.6
Utqiagvik (Barrow) -2.1 -19.0
Watson Lake -1.5 -18.6
Whitehorse 6.4 -14.2
Yakutat 28.6 -1.9

Several areas saw above normal precipitation during winter 2016-17 including the northern half of Alaska, the majority of the Yukon and the northern region of the Northwest Territories. Areas further south including south-central Alaska experienced a drier than normal winter.

Alaska’s North Slope, northeastern British Columbia and the whole Mackenzie Delta experienced significantly higher than normal temperatures this winter. These milder than normal conditions are because of a persistent southerly circulation of air along the eastern side of the Rockies throughout most of the winter. Temperatures over the majority of Alaska and the Yukon were close to normal except for the area between King Salmon and Gulkana, AK, which experienced colder than normal conditions.

A picture that shows the ice road near Dawson with a sign saying “Road closed”

Despite near normal temperatures in Dawson, YK this winter, warm conditions in November reduced ice build-up which prevented the unofficial ice road crossing the Yukon River from remaining open. Photo credit: CBC.

A photo showing a house with a wall that has removed due to strong winds

Damage to building in Savoonga, Alaska due to a December 31, 2016, storm. Winds gusting to 80mph (130 kph) damaged at least 30 structures  Photo: NOAA.

Temperature and precipitation outlook: April to June 2017

Temperature Outlook: Apr-Jun 2017

Map shows the forecast temperature anomaly prediction from the North American Multi-Model Ensemble
Long description

Map shows the forecast temperature anomaly prediction from the North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME) model for April to June 2017.  All of Alaska is predicted to have 40-50% probability of being above average temperature for April to June 2017.  The southeast Yukon and southwestern NWT are also 40-50% probability of being above normal.  All of the northern half of BC is above zero as well with a region along the Rocky Mountains in northern BC has a 50-60% probability of being above average temperature.

Precipitation Outlook: Apr-Jun 2017

Map shows the forecast precipitation prediction from the North American Multi-Model Ensemble
Long description

Map shows the forecast precipitation prediction from the North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME) model for April to June 2017. An area near Great Bear Lake southward to the tip of Great Slave Lake has a 36% probability of having above normal precipitation for the period.  The northwest of coast of Alaska has a 36-50% chance of having below normal precipitation over the period.

The graphics to the left show the most likely of the three possible categories (significantly above normal, near normal and significantly below normal) for the three months April through June 2017  according to the North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME) seasonal forecasts issued on March 7, 2017. Most of Alaska and northwestern Canada are depicted in the 40% to 50% likelihood for above normal temperatures. The northeastern corner of British Columbia has a slightly stronger warm signal.

The March through May time period is the driest three-month period of the year. The NMME forecast is for near normal precipitation across most of the region. The exception is for a drier season in northwest Alaska and slightly wetter in the Northwest Territories.

The April-June forecast reflects the recent demise of La Nina. Deterministic models are hinting at a return of El Nino. This may cause significant changes to the seasonal forecast.

Old (Multi-Year) Ice Concentration Departure in the Beaufort Sea: February 2017

Map showing departure from normal of sea-ice over the Beaufort Sea.
Long description Map showing departure from normal of sea-ice over the Beaufort Sea. North of 72°N the departure from normal old ice concentration is below nine to ten tenths of ice.

Ice conditions in the Beaufort Sea reached full wintertime coverage by the end of November 2016 and ice coverage has maintained a consistent value from December to February.  The coverage of old (multi-year) ice compared to normal (depicted to the left), has been significantly below normal.  This is due to very low old ice coverage in the Beaufort  Sea in the fall of 2016.

December and January brought exceptionally low sea ice coverage to the northern Bering Sea. The first week of January saw open water at Little Diomede, which extended into the southernmost Chukchi Sea.  This was the result of unfavorable weather for sea ice formation during the early winter as well as unusually warm ocean temperatures left over from summer 2016. There was such a lack of ice that on January 9th at Savooga, AK, the Siberian Yupik hunters of St. Lawrence Island landed a bowhead whale. For the first time in living memory, hunters were out in boats in January in completely ice-free waters hunting whales.  During February, more favorable weather allowed sea ice to form around St Lawrence Island and push south. By the end of the month, ice had not yet  reached St. Paul Island.

 

Content and graphics prepared in partnership with the Western Region Climate Center, NOAA National Weather Service Alaska Region, and Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Alaska Region Partners: Western Region Climate Center, Alaska Climate Research Center, Alaska Climate Science Center, Cryosphere Today, NOAA / NWS Weather Forecast Offices, NOAA / NESDIS / NCEI, Scenarios Network for Alaska + Arctic Planning.

 

NOAA Alaska region contacts:

James Partain  james.partain@noaa.gov
Rick Thoman  richard.thoman@noaa.gov
ncei.noaa.gov   •   #regionalclimateoutlooks
Brian Brettschneider: WRCC  brbrettschneider@alaska.edu

Western Canada partner:

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC).
Erik de Groot erik.degroot@canada.ca
Alyssa Charbonneau alyssa.charbonneau@canada.ca
Matt Macdonald  matt.macdonald@canada.ca

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