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Alaska just had its warmest spring on record

Here's something Alaskans already know: It's been really warm this year.

But how warm? Record-breaking warm.

According to the National Center for Environmental Information, the spring average temperature for the entire state was 32 degrees this year. The normal average for the state is a brisk 24 degrees.

"(The temperature difference) is huge," said Christian Cassell, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Anchorage.

The average represents meteorological spring — a 91-day period that starts March 1 and ends May 31. The previous record was set in 1998, when temperatures averaged 30 degrees.

According to the data, 13 Alaska communities broke individual average high temperature records this spring. Those communities stretch across the southern portion of the state, from Ketchikan (48 degrees) to the Bering Sea island of St. Paul (35.1 degrees). In the Interior, Fairbanks averaged 38.5 degrees this spring. Anchorage also broke its record by averaging 43 degrees.

Cassell said that higher sea temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, a lack of sea ice in the Bering Sea and a lack of snowfall in southern Alaska all contributed to persistently high temperatures during the spring.

"Once you get into a pattern like this it can kind of form its own positive feedback loop that just feeds on each other because there's nothing to counter it," Cassell said Wednesday. "That persistent pattern can kind of contribute to keeping that pattern in place until something can break it — and it never did break through, the whole winter through the spring."

And while it might be warm in Southcentral — Anchorage temperatures were in the 60s Wednesday — it was still cold in other parts of the state. There was even a winter storm warning in effect for the northeast village of Kaktovik through Thursday night, with 5 to 8 inches of snow predicted.

National Weather Service meteorologist Rick Thoman in Fairbanks said snow in Kaktovik is not unusual this time of year — but added that it was a big change from the day before. On Tuesday, the weather service recorded a high of 51 degrees.

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