The cold is courtesy of an encroaching, strong dome of high pressure banked to the west of Alaska, while a series of lows looms to the east.
Bettles, Alaska hasn’t climbed above 0 degrees in nearly 10 days. Sunday’s high temperature was minus-47. And at minus-56 degrees this morning, the quiet community of roughly a dozen year-round residents set a daily record low. The frigid temperature rivaled the average winter temperatures found on the surface of Mars.
Bettles is not alone. Much of Alaska’s interior and far north are enduring lows of 35 to 55 degrees below zero. During the daytime, it doesn’t get much better. Highs of around minus-40 are pretty common.
Fairbanks, meanwhile, was forecast to “warm” into the minus-20s on Friday, with a chance of snow flurries and freezing fog.
The cold is courtesy of an encroaching, strong dome of high pressure banked to the west of Alaska, while a series of lows looms to the east. The flow of air between these two weather systems has allowed a persistent tongue of cold to sweep down from the Arctic, lapping at the frigid tundra. Clear skies induced by high pressure has permitted radiational cooling, plummeting temperatures even more.
Elsewhere in Alaska, Kotzebue started their day at minus-15, Anaktuvuk Pass at minus-27, and even Utqiagvik – the United States’ northermost community – ended their workweek at a brisk minus-11.
Temperatures will finally start to moderate some into the weekend, recovering towards more seasonable norms to ring in the new year. However, there are indications the pattern thereafter will favor renewed shots of Arctic air.
The cold of this magnitude is not that unusual for Alaska, although it’s actually becoming more rare as the climate warms. Bettles, for instance, averages eleven nights a year that drop below minus-40.
However, in 1950, Bettles averaged closer to 20 nights a year with minus-40 degree lows.