Alaska has seen a years-long streak of astonishing warmth, with the warmest year-to-date and warmest June capping it off so far this year.
On Wednesday, Deadhorse, Alaska, which is located on the Arctic coast in northern Alaska near the oil port of Prudhoe Bay, reached 85 degrees Fahrenheit, or nearly 29.4 degrees Celsius.
This was the mildest high temperature on record at this location, beating the old record of 83 degrees Fahrenheit.
According to climatologist Brian Brettschneider, this was also the mildest temperature on record in Alaska for anywhere within 50 miles of the Arctic Ocean.
On the same day, the high temperature at New York’s Kennedy International Airport was 82 degrees Fahrenheit (though the weather station at Central Park hit exactly 85 degrees).
The record high in Deadhorse was not the only record set during the past week, the past several months, or even the past few years.
From January to June of this year, the statewide average temperature was 30.4 degrees Fahrenheit, which was 9 degrees above average. This beat the previous record by 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit, an unusually large margin for such a record to be broken by.
During the winter, Thoman said, there have been more freezing rain events in Fairbanks and Anchorage, and fewer snow events. Following a mild spring and early snowmelt in 2015, the wildfire season was extreme. However, despite the mild weather this spring, Thoman said, this summer is not expected to be as significant a wildfire season as last year was.
Thoman said the impacts of the mild weather have been widespread, from low “or non-existent” sea ice this past winter in coastal southwest Alaska — which hurt the ability of traditional communities to hunt for food — to worsening frost heaves on roadways across the state.
Some of the unusually mild conditions in Alaska can be blamed on a ridge of high pressure and area of mild ocean temperatures in the northeast Pacific, which many meteorologists nicknamed “The Blob.” That area of mild waters has dissipated, but it has been replaced with weather patterns and oceanic conditions that still favor mild temperature anomalies in Alaska, Thoman said.
The warmth is also connected to manmade climate change, considering that the Arctic as a whole has been warming at about twice the rate of the rest of the world, due to feedback loops that amplify the warming influence from greenhouse gases.