January 2012 Weather Summary

February 16, 2012


Alaska Weather Summary
January 2012


Temperatures were below normal in January for all of the nine stations discussed in this summary. Negative deviations were especially large in the Interior and western Alaska. These negative deviations, in declining order, occurred for King Salmon (minus 22.9 degrees Fahrenheit), Nome (minus 21.8 degrees Fahrenheit), Big Delta (minus 20.4 degrees Fahrenheit), Fairbanks (minus 19 degrees Fahrenheit) Anchorage (minus 14.6 degrees Fahrenheit), Kodiak (minus 9.1 degrees Fahrenheit) and Barrow (minus 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit). These are remarkably sizeable deviations and they are in direct contrast to December 2011, which was generally warmer than normal. Only two stations in Southeast were near normal, while still being below the long-term mean. They were Juneau and Ketchikan with minus 1.4 degrees and minus 2.9 degrees, respectively. The mean temperature of the nine stations gave a deviation of minus 13.3 degrees, a very substantial value. 


Precipitation was, in general, above normal. Only two stations reported below normal — Kodiak where 57 percent of the expected precipitation was observed and Nome with a slight total, representing only 20 percent of the normal value. The highest value, expressed as a percentage, was observed in Anchorage, at 179 percent of normal. The mean value for the nine stations was 18 percent above normal.


In Fairbanks the average temperature was minus 26.9 degrees Fahrenheit, a very substantial minus 19 degrees below the long-term mean for January. The high temperature for the month was 21 degrees January 10, while the lowest temperature was a frigid minus 51 degrees observed January 29. For most of the month, temperatures were below normal and similar to those more commonly observed back in the 1960s. On 16 days of the month, the temperature dropped to minus 40 degrees or colder. This continues a trend of the last decade, which has demonstrated some cooling, especially in winter. Despite the cold temperatures, no new temperature records were observed.


Precipitation in January was 0.69 inches water-equivalent, somewhat above the normal value of 0.58 inches. Snowfall was also close to the normal of 10.3 inches, with 9.6 inches. Some snowfall was observed on 16 days of the month. 


Wind speed averaged a low 2.3 mph, typical for winter in the Interior where the surface temperature inversion hinders the wind aloft to reach the surface. The highest gust was 23 mph January 22. 


Big Delta reported a mean temperature of minus 21.4 degrees Fahrenheit in January 2012, which is a very substantial 20.4 degrees below the long-term mean temperature. The month’s high temperature, 14 degrees, was observed January 11. The month’s low temperatures occurred January 29, with minus 50 degrees. In general, the daily temperature trace is similar to Fairbanks. However, extreme low temperatures occurred less frequently. Only six days had temperatures of minus 40 degrees or colder. As the Alaska Range is much closer to Big Delta than to Fairbanks, wind speeds are higher and more mixing of the warmer air above occurs. This weakens the surface temperature inversion. No new temperature records were observed.


Precipitation for the month measured as 0.48 inches water-equivalent. On January 6, 0.18 inches was recorded. This is a new record for the date, surpassing the old record of 0.12 inches in 1955.


In Juneau, the average temperature was 26.9 degrees Fahrenheit, 1.4 degrees below normal for January. The maximum temperature for the month was 42 degrees that occurred on January 7 and 8. The minimum temperature, 2 degrees, occurred January 17.


Precipitation totaled 6.43 inches, which is 1.08 inches above normal. The snowfall total was 48.6 inches, nearly twice the normal of 27.7 inches. The highest daily snowfall occurred January 25, with 6.8 inches. The maximum snow depth at the Juneau International Airport was measured at 20 inches on January 30. Two daily precipitation records were broken. On the 17th, 1.08 inches of water-equivalent were reported, breaking the record set in 1986. In addition, on the 29th, 6.3 inches of snow fell, replacing the old record set in 1954. As might be deduced from the high precipitation amount in Southeast, sky cover was high. There were just six clear days, one partly cloudy day and 24 cloudy days during the month. Average wind speed at the airport was 10.5 mph, with the highest wind gust being 54 mph on January 7. 


Anchorage recorded an average temperature of 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit, significantly below the normal of 17.1 degrees Fahrenheit. The maximum temperature of the month, 38 degrees, occurred January 11. The month’s minimum temperature, minus 13 degrees, was observed January 29. The observed temperatures were below normal for most of the month, with the exception of a warm spell around January 10. No new daily records were set.


Precipitation was reported at 1.31 inches, which is 79 percent above the normal value. On 19 days of the month at least some snow was reported. The monthly mean cloudiness was 60 percent. The average monthly wind speed was calculated at 5.4 mph. 


Nome reported a mean monthly temperature in January of minus 16.6 degrees Fahrenheit, an extremely strong deviation of minus 21.8 degrees from the long-term mean. The warmest monthly temperature, 21 degrees, occurred January 19 and 20. The month’s coldest temperature, minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit, occurred January 5. New temperature minima were set last month. On January 3, a minimum of minus 37 degrees surpassed the old minimum of minus 34 degrees observed in 1949. The following day, January 4, the temperature dropped to minus 38 degrees, replacing the old record low of minus 34 degrees set in 1917. On January 5, a low temperature of minus 40 degrees was reported, which matched the low temperature for date set back in 1917. On the 12th, the minimum was minus 33 degrees, surpassing the old minimum of minus 32 degrees set in 1973. Finally, on January 13, the temperature dropped to minus 34 degrees, surpassing the old record of minus 32 degrees, also set in 1973. With an exception of just a few days during the middle of the month, the January experienced below normal temperatures on the whole.


Precipitation was very light, totaling 0.19 inches, representing only 20 percent of the expected amount. The average wind speed for the month was light, with 4.4 mph. The highest gust observed was 54 mph on January 21, blowing from a northerly direction.


Barrow reported an average temperature in January of minus 20.6 degrees Fahrenheit, a strong minus 7.2 degrees below normal. The maximum temperature, 7 degrees, occurred January 18. The lowest temperature of the month, minus 45 degrees, occurred the 23rd, 30th and 31st. In general, temperatures during the month were below normal, particularly pronounced for the last 10 days. No new temperature records were recorded during January. 


Precipitation in Barrow totaled 0.20 inches, a low value typical for the North Slope. It was nevertheless 0.07 inches above normal. Twice the normal amount of snow fell – 5.8 inches. The mean monthly wind speed was 10.5 mph and a gust of 38 mph occurred January 5, blowing from a northeasterly direction.


King Salmon reported an average temperature of minus 6.7 degrees Fahrenheit, far below to the long-term mean of 16.2 degrees. The high temperature for the month, 37 degrees, occurred January 10. The month’s low temperature, a chilly minus 40 degrees, occurred January 27. A new record low temperature was set January 12, with a temperature of minus 35 degrees. On January 25, a minimum of minus 37 degrees was measured, replacing the old minimum set in 2006. On January 26, the temperature dropped to minus 39 degrees, replacing the old minimum set in 1989. 


The precipitation total for January measured 1.12 inches, 10 percent above the normal of 1.02 inches. Accordingly, the observed snowfall was slightly above the long-term average. On January 10, 0.72 inches of precipitation were recorded, which is a new record for the date. The precipitation amount was more than double the old record of 0.26 inches set in 1957. Further, the snowfall for the date was 4.2 inches, doubling the old record of 2.1inches set in 1986. Average wind speed was 9.9 mph. The month’s highest gust was 43 mph on January 10, blowing from an easterly direction. 


Ketchikan's average temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit in January was 2.9 degrees below the long-term mean. Compared with the rest of Alaska, this is a relatively small deviation. The highest temperature of the month, 49 degrees, occurred January 4. The month’s low temperature, minus 2 degrees, occurred on the 19th. Worth noting was the short, but deep cold spell shortly after the middle of the month. This included a new record low temperature of minus 2 degrees on January 19, a substantial 7 degrees below the previous record set in 1972. 


Monthly precipitation was measured at 22.26 inches, 45 percent above the expected amount of 15.4 inches. Notable events occurred January 1 and 7, with 2.32 inches and 2.35 inches of precipitation, respectively. 



Kodiak's average temperature of 21.4 degrees Fahrenheit in January was 9.1 degrees below the long-term mean. This is a substantial deviation, but comparable with the rest of Alaska. It was also the third coldest January ever measured in Kodiak. The month’s highest temperature, 50 degrees, occurred January 10. The month’s low temperature, minus 5 degrees, occurred on both the 23rd and the 27th. Remarkable were the strong temperature variations, with new daily maxima around January 10 and new daily minima around the 25th. The maximum of 50 degrees on January 10 broke the old maximum set in 1937. Then the low, minus 5 degrees, occurring on the 23rd, was a tie for the record low set in 1947. A second minimum tie of minus 2 degrees occurred January 26, matching the temperature set in 1944. A temperature of minus 5 degrees was recorded on January 27, a new record minimum for the date. The previous record low was minus 4 degrees set in 1989.


Monthly precipitation was measured at 4.72 inches, substantially below the expected amount of 8.29 inches. Snowfall on the 17th measured as 5.3 inches. An additional 5.1 inches fell on the 18th. These are new records. The monthly amount of snowfall set a new record with 53.4 inches, surpassing the old record of 40.4 inches set in 2004.


This information consists of preliminary climatological data compiled by the Alaska Climate Research Center, Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks. For more information on weather and climatology, contact the center at 474-7885 or visit the center web site at http://akclimate.org. Please report any errors to webmaster@akclimate.org.