Unusual December warmup shatters records in Alaska

Temperatures skyrocketed to levels that have never before been recorded this late in the year across the far northern reaches of Alaska as a record-shattering wave of warmth encompassed the state at the beginning of the week.

Utqiagvik, Alaska, formally known as Barrow, which lies north of the Arctic Circle and is the northernmost city in the United States, soared to 40 degrees Fahrenheit Monday morning, far exceeding the daily record of 26 set in 1972 and surpassing the highest temperature on record in December of 34 set back in 1932.

Utqiagvik's high mark Monday also set a record for the warmest the region has gotten on any date between Oct. 30 and April 22, surpassing the previous record of 39 set in November 1937, according to the National Weather Service office in Fairbanks. Temperatures in the city typically "peak" in the single digits during early December.

Around Fairbanks, temperatures did not climb quite as high but were still above average as they settled in the upper 20s over the weekend, with another high of 21 recorded on Tuesday. The average high temperature for early December in Fairbanks is in the upper single digits.


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AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Paul Walker said that an active storm track into the Bering Sea may have been a factor in the warm weather across the far northern part of Alaska.

"Strong winds from the south-southeast were blowing off of the Brooks Range ahead of these storms, and that may have contributed to the extent of the warmth," Walker said.

The Brooks Range is a west-to-east-oriented mountain chain in northern Alaska. Winds from the south to southeast will blow across the highest peaks and then down the north-facing slopes, a process that warms up the air.

Temperatures were lower around the Utqiagvik region on Tuesday morning.

Experts say Alaska is one of many areas located within the Arctic Circle that has roasted amid unusual warmth in recent days. The month of November ended with Arctic sea ice coverage at its eighth lowest extent in the satellite era for the month, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. The lower-than-normal sea ice translates to a warmer-than-normal atmosphere.

On Sunday, temperatures across the entire Arctic averaged 11.5 degrees higher than the normal temperature over the years spanning 1979-2000, The Associated Press reported, citing data from the University of Maine's Climate Reanalyzer.

Portions of Greenland experienced temperatures 25-35 degrees above normal late last week, putting thermometers in the upper 40s to middle 50s.

The latest wave of warmth has passed its peak in Alaska, AccuWeather meteorologists say, but temperatures will remain several degrees above early December normals into late this week.

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