Earlier this week (June 17-21, 2013), parts of Alaska began experiencing temperatures warmer than the daily averages for Hawaii or Florida at this time of the year: Alaska temps soared into the 80s and 90s. A large ridge of high pressure has provided sinking air and plenty of sunshine to help break many record-high temperatures across the state. This heatwave has been ongoing for the past several days. It has brought windy, dry, and warm conditions responsible for wildfires burning now in parts of Alaska, mainly in locations to the east of Fairbanks. This heatwave developed after Alaska experienced below-average temperatures throughout this past spring.
According to Jeff Masters from Weather Underground, there was an unofficial 98°F measured at Bentalit Lodge on Monday, June 17, which would tie the record for the hottest reliably measured temperature in Alaska history. Talkeetna set an all-time high temperature record of 96°F on Monday, June 17, smashing its previous mark of 91°F set a day earlier, and previously set in June of 1969.
Prior to this June heatwave, Alaska had its 20th coolest and 14th wettest May. In fact, Alaska had its 18th coolest March-May since records began in 1918 with a temperature of 1.8 degrees Celsius below the 1971-2000 average. With such a cool and wet start for 2013, the weather has now done a complete 180, and we find unusually warm and dry weather across the region.
Long-range models are indicating that temperatures will likely remain well above average for parts of central and southern Alaska through the beginning of next week, although they will likely not reach the record warmth of this week. Temperatures in Alaska next week are likely to be five to 10 degrees above average. With dry and windy conditions.
There have been a few wildfires developing, mainly east of Fairbanks. On June 18, 2013, the Kanuti fire started in a neighborhood off Chena Hot Springs Road and has burned approximately 120 acres. It appears as if this fire was likely human-caused, but no specifics have been released as of today (June 21). Fortunately, the fire appears to have caused very little damage to homes or businesses.
Bottom line: Record warmth has occurred throughout parts of Alaska this past week (June 17-21, 2013) with a few areas experiencing highs in the 80s and 90s. An unusually large ridge of high pressure has given a large majority of the state plenty of sunshine, very warm temperatures, and gusty winds. The combination of the three caused a few wildfire issues, likely human-caused, primarily to the east of Fairbanks, Alaska.
Matt Daniel is Meteorologist for WBRC in Birmingham, Alabama. A self-described "big weather and music geek," Matt has a passion for helping to keep people safe when severe weather strikes and says if you don't have a NOAA Weather Radio ... you should get one.