Spring has arrived in Alaska, and it’s early, meteorologists say.
For the first time in 102 days, meteorologists on Saturday measured less than one inch of snow at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, the National Weather Service Anchorage forecasting office said in a tweet. That means that, unless more snow falls — and forecasters don’t expect it to — spring melt is here.
That makes this year’s melt the fourth earliest on record, just behind 2016, when the melt started on March 22; 1980, when it started on March 24; and 1987, when it started on March 26, said Rebecca Anderson, a meteorologist with the NWS.
On average, that less-than-one-inch mark isn’t typically reached until April 17.
This year’s early spring comes amid weeks of record-breaking high temperatures, which have peaked in the high 40s and 50s. That’s nearly 20 degrees above the average March maximum temperature normal of 33.9 degrees, according to climate data.
Anchorage broke or tied temperature records seven days in March, all of which were in final two weeks of the month, Anderson said. Saturday’s high of 50 degrees tied a record set in 2016.
Other places around Alaska have also seen unusual warmth. The NWS Juneau office reported Saturday that its forecasting area had seen 14 consecutive days of record-breaking or record-tying temperatures. The most recent were in Skagway, where temperatures peaked Saturday at 58 degrees.
In Fairbanks, the low on both Monday and Tuesday was 34 degrees. The city’s lowest temperature has only been above 34 in March on one other day in the last 114 years, the Fairbanks forecasting office said.
The abnormally high temperatures are primarily caused by a high pressure system that’s been sitting over Alaska for the last 15 days, she said, though other factors have come into a play as well: namely, an increase in the amount of daylight Alaska is getting and a phenomenon known as “offshore blow,” when dry air coming south from the Interior blows toward the ocean.
“It’s a really strong high that’s kind of just anchored over us,” Anderson said.
The National Weather Service’s river forecasters are monitoring the amount of snow and ice melting into rivers across the state — spring melts that come very quickly can cause flooding, she said.
Forecasters expect warm, sunny conditions to continue in Anchorage through next week.