The Sideshow

Does this photo of Alaska show a troublesome trend?

The Sideshow

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Rare view from space of Alaska on a nearly cloudless day (NASA Goddard Photo and Video)

A gorgeous – and rare – nearly cloudless view of the entire state of Alaska was captured by NASA’s Terra satellite on June 17, 2013.

But is the photo beautiful or a bad sign? Some on the Web suggested that warmer temperatures in the state that have led to less cloud cover could be a sign of global warming.

NASA explains on its website that the near-cloudless state is a result of higher-than-normal temperatures:

“The same ridge of high pressure that cleared Alaska's skies also brought stifling temperatures to many areas accustomed to chilly June days. Talkeetna, a town about 100 miles north of Anchorage, saw temperatures reach 96°F (36°C) on June 17. Other towns in southern Alaska set all-time record highs, including Cordova, Valez, and Seward. The high temperatures also helped fuel wildfires and hastened the breakup of sea ice in the Chukchi Sea.”

The photo raises more questions than answers about rising temperatures that may either be a fluke or a longer-term sign of a worrisome trend.

A writer for Slate noted a similar occurrence with a study of rising temperatures in Greenland last summer, when 98 percent of Greenland’s ice surface "experienced melting between July 8-15, 2012."

A change to the jet stream over Greenland could be the explanation, causing “warmer high-pressure systems to sit and stay in one place in what’s called a blocking pattern.”

So are Arctic weather patterns changing due to global climate change? As Slate points out, we’ll know more in the next few years. Meanwhile, it is a really nice view – and a potentially worrisome sign.

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