Northern Alaska heat wave brings record temperature to Deadhorse

A heat wave in Interior and northern Alaska brought a record-high temperature to Deadhorse Wednesday, with the National Weather Service reporting a high of 84 degrees at the industrial site near the edge of the Arctic Ocean.

There were temperatures in the 80s across a wide region, with Bettles and Eagle reporting 85 and Fairbanks and Nenana climbing to 87 at 6 p.m. Fort Yukon rose to 84.

With midafternoon readings in the high 80s, Fairbanks baked in bright sunshine Wednesday as a heat wave settled over Interior Alaska with the highest temperatures of the summer.

What the National Weather Service called a "very strong upper level ridge" was parked over northern Alaska, creating near-record temperatures at least until a weekend front sweeps down from the Arctic.

"It's not that unusual, but this could be our warmest weather of the summer," said National Weather Service meteorologist Rick Thoman. "It could get warmer later in the month, but after early August that is unlikely."

Thoman said a 90-degree reading in Fairbanks is possible Thursday or Friday, before things cool off a bit for the weekend.

"The one factor that might help keep temperatures down a bit is the high level of soil moisture remaining from recent wet weather," writes Richard James, a scientist who contributes to the Deep Cold weather blog. "The moist ground will not heat up quite as much, and increased evaporation will soak up some energy compared to, say, 2013."


It was three years ago in June when Fairbanks last saw 90 degrees. The record books show that the all-time high was 99, set on July 28, 1919, but Thoman believes that was a false reading, perhaps because of a faulty thermometer, although no one can say for sure.

Other stations in the Interior showed temperatures that were 10 degrees cooler that day, which makes the 1919 report suspect, said Thoman. He said the modern record of 96, set on June 15, 1969, is more reliable.

By the way, he believes the report that Fort Yukon topped out at 100 on June 27, 1915 — the highest temperature ever recorded in Alaska — is plausible.


Dermot Cole

Former ADN columnist Dermot Cole is a longtime reporter, editor and author.