On Sunday, the temperature in Kodiak, Alaska, hit 67 degrees Fahrenheit, setting a December record-high for a state that has become used to them as climate change continues to rewrite history.
The temperature readings in Kodiak did not merely edge out some previous record by a degree or two; the 65 degrees reported at the airport was 20 degrees higher than the previous high temperature record of 45 degrees set on Dec. 26, 1984, the National Weather Service reported.
According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, Alaska is warming faster than any other U.S. state and twice as quickly as the global average since the middle of the 20th century.
“Alaska’s Changing Environment notes that, since 2014, there have been 5 to 30 times more record-high temperatures set than record lows,” the NOAA said on its website.
A 2019 analysis by the Associated Press found that new global high temperature records were outpacing new low records by a ratio of 2 to 1. That finding was corroborated by the Environmental Protection Agency.
“If the climate were completely stable, one might expect to see highs and lows each accounting for about 50 percent of the records set. Since the 1970s, however, record-setting daily high temperatures have become more common than record lows across the United States,” the EPA said on its website. “The decade from 2000 to 2009 had twice as many record highs as record lows.”
Other studies have confirmed that, as global temperatures continue to rise, the ratio will continue to grow in the coming years as humans continue to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
While many locations in Alaska set record-low temperatures in November, it is the ratio that will help decide where 2021 will ultimately rank in terms of warmer overall temperatures.
Along with December’s heat dome, Alaska has seen another big change during an atypical time of year: heavy rains. Record-breaking downpours of nearly 30 inches were unleashed on the Portage Glacier in late October, the Washington Post reported.
Fairbanks, Alaska, saw its wettest December day in recorded history on Sunday, with 1.93 inches of rain.
Rain in Alaska at this time of year is almost unheard of, but the state isn't the only place where global warming is ushering in changes. In August, rain fell on Greenland's tallest mountain for the first time since records began being kept there in 1950.
“This has never happened before. Something is going on in the atmosphere that's taking us into uncharted territory,” John Walsh, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, told Sierra magazine.
In total, 7 billion tonnes of rain fell on Greenland over the course of three unusually warm August days, which helped speed the melting of its ice sheet. Scientists estimate that because of the rain, Greenland lost 7 times the ice it normally would at that time of year.
Studies suggest that melting sea ice is the reason that the Arctic has been found to be warming at a rate four times faster than the rest of the world.
While numerous high temperature records fell in 2021 across the United States and the globe, including the record for the hottest Christmas in the U.S. on record, Alaska set one-day temperature records in Fairbanks and Anchorage.
Those records follow an exceptionally warm summer in 2019.
“Starting on the Fourth of July and lasting multiple days, temperatures across Alaska were 20 to 30 degrees above average in some locations,” the NOAA said on its website. “On July 4, all-time high temperature records were set in Kenai, Palmer, King Salmon, and Anchorage International Airport. The airport reached an astounding, for Alaska, 90°F, breaking the previous all-time record by 5°F!”