Alaska’s winters usually hover around four degrees Fahrenheit, but this year had a balmy average of 14 degrees — and the coming spring appears to follow same warm trend.
Spring in Alaska is averaging eight degrees above normal, with residents experiencing temperatures averaging 32 degrees instead of the normal 24. It was even warmer in Alaska than it was in Washington, D.C. on some days.
Barrow, Alaska — the nation’s northernmost community — saw snow melt a full 10 days ahead of the previous record set in 2002, according to a report released in May by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The National Centers for Environmental Information put together data showing that not only was this most recent winter the second warmest on record, but it also marked the first time that Alaska didn’t see a temperature of -50 degrees.
Other signs of record-breaking warmth in America’s 49 state include: the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers record early breakup of ice; and Fairbanks’ earliest “green-up” on record, when trees started budding on April 26 as opposed to the average of May 10. NOAA has kept track of when the first tree buds appear in Fairbanks since 1974.
Arctic sea ice has also broken up very early this year. “It looks like late June or early July right now,” David Douglas, research biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey told NOAA in May. “Polar bears are having to make their decisions about how to move and where to go on thinner ice pack that’s mostly first-year ice.”
The Arctic is already going through a transformation as vegetation replaces tundra — further evidence of a warming shift.
There is hope this Arctic warming trend may return to the status quo, as 2015 saw a second straight year of slowed increase in CO2 emissions. If CO2 is indeed responsible for the warming trends, this could help cool the Arctic to its normal super-chilled environment.
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