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Ready for a scorcher? Parts of Anchorage may hit 90 degrees

Eli Martin
Alaskans enjoy near-record temperatures at Anchorage's Goose Lake on Friday, June 14, 2013. The heat wave is expected to last into next week.
Loren Holmes photo
A lifeguard on break from patrolling the swimmers at Goose Lake in Anchorage gets an ice cream from Bob Hickey's Alaskan Polar Bear Ice Cream truck. June 14, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Kids take a break from swimming at Goose Lake in Anchorage to get ice cream from Bob Hickey's Alaskan Polar Bear Ice Cream truck. June 14, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Swimmers enjoy near-record temperatures at Mirror Lake in Peters Creek on Friday, June 14, 2013. The heat wave is expected to last into next week.
Loren Holmes photo
A kayaker enjoys warm temps and blue skies at Eklutna Lake on Friday, June 14, 2013. The heat wave is expected to last into next week.
Loren Holmes photo
Families enjoy near-record temps at Mirror Lake in Peters Creek on Friday, June 14, 2013. The heat wave is expected to last into next week.
Loren Holmes photo

Anchorage could face temperatures as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the coming days – unprecedented heat in a town where the all-time high is 86.

Christian Cassell, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Anchorage, said that temperatures will begin to peak on Sunday and be very warm Monday and Tuesday, reaching the low-to-mid 80s. Weak northerly flows may mean that hot air remains stuck in Anchorage. This might, in turn, push temperatures even higher, bringing East Anchorage and Palmer closer to the 90-degree mark.

Weather patterns have brought a remarkable run of hot, dry weather to Alaska’s biggest city and population center over the past week – not long after winter than never seemed to end.

Even if East Anchorage does top 90, the city may fall short of a new record. The all-time high of 86 degrees was reached in July 1993. Official readings, Cassell explained, must be recorded at the National Weather Service station on Sand Lake in West Anchorage, where weather is often slightly cooler than the east part of town. So while parts of Anchorage may see highs of 90 on Monday and Tuesday, the official temperature may fall short of that.

All-time high coming?

Cassell did predict that Sunday stood a good chance of breaking the all-time June 16 record of 79 degrees. But he was skeptical about whether residents would see a new all-time Anchorage high.

“I would put the odds at 5 percent or less, at least right now,” he said.

Cloud cover could cool Southcentral Alaska later next week -- but unseasonably hot weather could persist, too.  

Saturday stands a slim chance of breaking the 82-degree record for June 15, Cassell said. And temperatures could be above 70 degrees when thousands of Alaskans take part in the Color Run along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail -- as well as the PrideMarch and PrideFestival, highlights of the city’s annual PrideFest.

Cool corners of Alaska

Not all of Alaska will face blistering summer heat over the coming days. In Barrow, the northernmost city in the U.S. and where the sun never sets at this time of year, temperatures are forecast to stay in the mid-40s or low-50s all of next week. And at the 7,200-foot Mount McKinley base camp, climbers endured 34-degree temperatures on Friday.

Nevertheless, warm, dry weather is the forecast for much of the state -- raising wildfire concerns. 

The Alaska Interagency Coordination Center put out a red flag warning for much of the state, excluding Anchorage thus far. The center issues red flag warnings when it sees a high risk of fires starting or getting out of control. The public was urged to be careful. According to the center’s Friday report, four new fires have been reported in the Anchorage-Mat-Su area Friday, but all appeared small and under control.

Whether or not temperature records are broken, protracted periods of weather in the high 70s and low 80s are unusual for Anchorage. “People are not used to this kind of heat,” said Cassell.

Big change from last summer

It’s a stark contrast to last summer, when Anchorage experienced its fourth-wettest July on record, and The Weather Channel awarded the city the unenviable accolade of first place in its list of the top-five U.S. cities with the worst summer weather.

Cassell also advised people planning outdoor activities over the weekend to be cautious, warning those planning extended hikes to bring extra water and be mindful of the risks of overheating.

“I know a lot of residences don’t have air conditioning. I am personally contemplating buying either some extra fans or even one of those small air conditioners for a room ... That’s just me. The houses here are so well insulated, they build up heat much better than (in the Lower 48).”

Typical for Alaska, Anchorage will not feel the worst of the heat wave. Parts of the state’s interior are forecast to be much hotter. For example, the National Weather Service in Fairbanks has forecast highs in the 80s and above through the next week.

Contact Eli Martin at eli(at)alaskadispatch.com