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Are Alaskans ready for a mid-winter heat wave?

Katie Medred
Loren Holmes photo

Most everyone knows the jolly holiday hymn beginning with, "The weather outside is frightful." But few actually live it. Here in Alaska, though, winter 2012 has indeed been frightful. Enough so that some have speculated our enduring cold snap is the real "end of days" as prophesied by the Mayan Long Count calendar.

Frigid state

In late November, the Alaskan village of Chicken, in the state's Interior, was the first to reach a nose blistering 50 below.

Fairbanks wasn't far behind. The Alaska's second largest city drained the mercury in early December, when temperatures dropped to 40 below for the first time, leaving local conditions too cold for ice carving. And in Anchorage, frigid crystal-clear nights have reigned supreme in the state's major metropolitan area for much of November and December. The numbers don't lie.

National Weather Service meteorologist Shaun Baines reported Saturday that as of Dec. 21, Anchorage had already spent 10 days below zero this month.  The city's average temperature this December is just 5.3 degrees, nearly 8 degrees shy of the December average of 13.2 degrees. So what gives?! And better yet, when does it end?!

It's a Christmas miracle! (close enough)

"Generally speaking we'll be moving out of this (cold) pattern we've been in and into a pattern that will bring more clouds and a greater chance of snow," Baines said Saturday."(Anchorage) should see a break (in the cold snap) by Christmas Day."

(Insert sigh of relief.)

According to NWS, Anchorage should be "mostly cloudy with a chance of snow" with "highs 15 to 20" above Monday through Thursday.

Fairbanks will see an increase in temperature, too.  The weather service reports that, come Monday, Fairbanks highs likely will be above zero and remain so through Thursday.

And for friends in Southeast, Juneau may be blustery, but at least it will be out of the teens and into the 20s with a "chance of snow" by Friday.

Let there be light

With the darkest day of the year behind us Alaskans can rest assured that the days, if not all that much warmer, will get lighter.

Saturday saw 12 more seconds of daylight than Friday, winter solstice. And Sunday will double that. Not until Wednesday will Anchorage breech the one-minute mark of additional light, but worry not, daylight hours will pick up steam. Fast.

By Jan. 7, we’ll be adding three minutes a day. Before the end of the month (Jan. 26), brighter skies will be noticeable with five more minutes of daylight being added ever 24 hours.

Finally, by March 18, we’re even -- 12 hours of daylight balanced against 12 hours of night.

Of course, if you live in Barrow, Alaska, you’ve got to cope with another month of darkness before the sun crests the horizon for the first time on Jan. 22, with a vigorous 42 minutes, 39 seconds of daylight. But the additions up north come in big daily chunks, up to 44 minutes. By the end of April, Barrow residents will be celebrating – unless they intend to sleep -- more than 19 hours of daylight.

Read more for daylight hours and check your local Alaska holiday week weather here.

Contact Katie Medred at katie(at)alaskadispatch.com