An unusually early streak of warm, sunny weather across Alaska, including in Southcentral, will likely continue through at least the weekend before a slight cooldown beginning next week, according to the National Weather Service.
For the past six days, temperatures at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport have been recorded at 70 degrees or above, said Tim Markle, a meteorologist with the NWS Anchorage office.
Temperatures above 80 degrees have been recorded from Fairbanks to Juneau and Haines in recent days, and high temperature records have been broken in at least a few communities, including Bethel.
The dry, warm conditions have put much of the state on high fire alert, with red flag warnings and burn bans issued across the state. Markle said the fire danger would remain high through the weekend, and could even increase if the wind starts to pick up.
The warm weather is caused by a high-pressure system that extends from the West Coast across the Canadian Rockies and into Alaska, Markle said.
“We’ve been sitting under this ridge of high pressure for about the last four or five days right now,” he said. That system is expected to start to break down on Saturday and Sunday.
When that happens, “we will start to get a little bit more cloud cover and a little bit more moisture in here. We’ll get a little bit more of a flow off of the Gulf of Alaska. And so what that’s going to do is just kind of increase our chances for some afternoon and evening showers and thunderstorms,” Markle said.
Markle said the current weather pattern was “definitely unusual” for this time of year.
Extended temperatures in the 70s and 80s usually only occur in Alaska around the first or second week of July as opposed to late May or early June, he said. Multiple records have been broken this week.
“Today’s Anchorage record high is 73 degrees. Right now we’re already at 72,” Markle said Thursday afternoon.
In Alaska, warm temperatures can feel even hotter than they do in other states, he said. That’s because of the extended sunlight hours here, and also the lower sun angles that mean more time spent in direct sunlight, Markle explained.
Markle said the latest weather pattern was not necessarily indicative of the kind of temperatures Alaskans should expect for the rest of the summer season.
“Last year, we had also a very, very mild end of April and beginning of May, and then ended up transitioning to probably a little bit of a cloudy, cooler summer that we’ve had in years past, and conversely in May of 2019, it was actually a very wet month; it was one of our wettest if not the wettest May on record, he said. “And ultimately 2019 ended up being of a very bad fire season here.”
He encouraged Alaskans to continue to take precautions to avoid starting wildfires through the weekend.
“We know that there is elevated fire dangers pretty much across the state right now, and that is just expected to continue as we deal with these warm and dry temperatures,” he said.