Weather

Anchorage’s shift from drought to an onslaught of rain brings ‘weather whiplash extraordinaire’

Rain

After weeks of drought earlier this season, Anchorage is now seriously wet.

The rainy season has arrived in Southcentral Alaska, and the precipitation is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future.

Anchorage saw the third-driest June on record before seeing its fifth-wettest July and August so far, said Rick Thoman, climate specialist with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

“Weather whiplash extraordinaire” is what Thoman called it Friday.

A severe drought spanned across much of Southcentral earlier in the summer, before the rain began to fall.

In Anchorage, the rain kept falling. Over the past 50 days, 30 have had measurable rain. Rather than a large dump of rain falling on a few days, there’s been a steady pitter patter, day after day.

“I think people grousing about the weather, that’s as much what they’re grousing about is the number of rainy days, the frequency of rain, as well as or even more so than just the amount of rain,” Thoman said.

And while Sunday may bring a brief reprieve, it will only be temporary. Some rain is expected starting Sunday evening and lingering through the week, said Michael Kutz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Anchorage.

The forecast is calling for an additional three-quarters of an inch of rain from Friday afternoon through Saturday. That’s higher than usual daily rainfall totals, which generally have been in the range of three- to four-tenths of an inch every day, Kutz said.

In August through Friday, Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport had received 5.18 inches of rain, more than 3 inches above normal.

Snow has fallen at higher elevations and will remain on only the tallest peaks for now, with cooler weather still to come at lower elevations, Kutz said.

In Anchorage over the next week, low temperatures are forecast in the 50s with highs expected in the mid-60s.

Knik River, fog, rain, weather

The rain is “being pumped in from the south,” he said: A low-pressure area toward the Alaska Peninsula is effectively turning the tap on over Southcentral Alaska, across Prince William Sound and in the Copper River Basin.

It may seem like a distant memory now, but earlier this year, Anchorage and much of Alaska was in a severe drought.

With so few clouds and so little rain earlier this year, Alaska saw its driest June on record. Millions of acres burned as wildfire swept across many parts the state.

Then the rain started. While a few areas in Alaska, like the Yukon Flats, are still considered abnormally dry, none of Alaska is in drought conditions right now, said Brian Brettschneider with the National Weather Service Alaska Region.

“We really have flipped the switch quite dramatically,” Brettschneider said.

This time of year is the wettest for most of Alaska, especially in Southcentral. Half of the year’s precipitation tends to fall between the end of July and early October.

Still, 2022 has been an unusually rainy year. “This year has been remarkably wet,” Brettschneider said.

Timing wise, Alaska’s rainy season tends to last through most of September and wane come October.

“Then we get cold, and then it just changes over to snow,” Brettschneider said. “And so, in some respects, our rainy season ends when the rain turns to snow.”

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Morgan Krakow

Morgan Krakow is a general assignment reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. She is a 2019 graduate of the University of Oregon and spent the summer of 2019 as a reporting intern on the general assignment desk of The Washington Post. Contact her at mkrakow@adn.com.

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