A brief but intense storm on December 22 produced damage in several communities. At Quinhagak, winds estimated to be gusting to 85 mph caused half the town to lose power for a day; fuel pumps were damaged; several structures suffered significant wind damage. Minor damage was also reported at Platinum and phone service was knocked out at Goodnews Bay.
The temperature December 8 at the Juneau Airport rose to 54°F (12°C). This equaled the highest temperature of record for the month, also observed December 12, 1944 and December 23, 1999. This was one of five days during the first half of December that the Juneau airport set or tied daily record highs. Daily climate observations have been made without a break at the Juneau airport since the early 1940s.
This was by far the warmest December of record at Kotzebue. The average temperature of 18.0°F (-7.8°C) is more than 15°F (8°C) above normal and 5°F (2.8°C) higher than previous record warm December of 2000. Climate observations have been made at Kotzebue with only a few breaks since 1928.
December was an exceptionally warm month at McGrath. The average temperature for the month of 19.3°F (-7.1°C) was more than 22°F (12°C) above normal, and also the mildest winter month of record. The previous warmest December was in 2014, when the average temperature was 10.7°F (-11.8°C). Three daily record high temperatures set during the month, including 45°F (+7°C) on December 23. Climate observations have been made at McGrath since 1941.
Following the mildest November of record, December brought more record temperatures to Utqiaġvik (Barrow). The average temperature for the month of +5.7°F (-14.6°C) was by far the highest December average in 98 years of record. The previous warmest December was in 1983, when the average temperature was +0.6°F (-17.4°C).
Bettles was very snowy the first three weeks of December. Measurable snow fell on 20 of the first 21 days of the month. The total snowfall for the month was 32.4", more than twice normal and enough to make 2017 the sixth snowiest December in the past 73 years.
Thompson Pass, at 2600' elevation on the Richardson Highway, is one of the snowiest places in Alaska that people regularly access, and is no stranger to big snowfalls. On December 6 the Alaska Department of Transportation (DOT) reported that 40" (101cm) of snow fell in 12 hours and a whopping 15" (38cm) of snow in 90 minutes. The heavy snow triggered an avalanche more than 20 feet (6m) deep over the Richardson Highway, which was closed for more than a day until DOT could clear the road.
In this issue: Experimental Arctic Prediction, Sea Ice: Summer & Autumn 2017 Climate Review May–Oct '17, News & Events
Sea ice was extraordinarily slow to grow during November in the Chukchi and Bering Seas near Alaska. Ice started to grow out from the coast during the last ten days of the month, but a huge area of the offshore Chukchi Sea and nearly all of the northern Bering Sea remained ice-free. The combined Chukchi and Bering Sea ice extent was less than half of 1981-2010 average and 20% lower than the previous lowest (2014) in the satellite era (since 1978).
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