Climate Highlights and Other News

December 2016

Warmest Year of Record at St. Paul    

St. Paul recorded the warmest year of record in 2016, with an average temperature of 40.3°F (4.6°C). This is nearly five degrees above normal and exceeds the previous record of 39.7°F (4.3°C) set in 1979. Climate observations have been made at St. Paul, with a few breaks, since 1915. 

Warmest Year of Record at Bethel    

The average temperature in Bethel for 2016 was 36.7°F (2.6°C). This is six degrees warmer than normal and is easily the warmest calendar year of record, The previous warmest year was 2014, when the average temperature was 34.9°F (1.6°C). Daily climate observations have been made at Bethel since 1923.

Warmest Year of Record at King Salmon    

2016 was the warmest calendar year of record at King Salmon. The average temperature of 41.7°F (5.4°C) was more than six degrees above normal and broke the previous record of 40.4°F (4.7°C) set in 2014. 

Warmest Year of Record at Anchorage    

The average temperature at the Anchorage International Airport for 2016 was 41.5°F (5.3°C). This is the highest annual temperature of record, exceeding the previous record of 40.5°F (4.7°C) set in 2014. The three warmest years of record at Anchorage have been 2014, 2015 and 2016. Climate observations have been made at Anchorage International Airport since late 1952. 

2016 in Nome: Warmest Year of Record    

Climate observations have been made almost continuously in Nome since late 1906, but 2016 was the first time that the average annual temperature came in above freezing. The average temperature in 2016 of 32.5°F (+0.3°) was more than six degrees warmer than the 20th century average and exceeded the previous warmest year (2014) by nearly one degree F. 

Alaska statewide average annual temperatures

Alaska statewide average annual temperatures

2016 was Warmest Year of Record in Alaska    

Incredibly persistent mild weather for the first ten and one half months pushed Alaska to by far the warmest year of record (since 1925). According to analysis by the National Centers for Environmental Information, 2016 was almost six degrees warmer than the 20th century average and an astonishing 1.6°F warmer than previous warmest year, 2014. 

Record High Temperatures at Kotzebue    

The temperature on New Years Eve (2016) at Kotzebue peaked at 37°F (3°C). This was not only a record for December 31, breaking the previous record 35°F (2°C) set in 2014, but equals the highest temperature of record in December. A 37°F reading also occurred in 2015, 2013 and 1982. 

Alaska climate divisions.

Third Warmest December at Barrow    

The average temperature at Barrow during December was +0.1°F (-17.7°F), making this the third warmest December in the past 95 years. The warmest December was in 1983, when the average temperature was +0.6°F (-17.4°F).

Damaging Winds at Savoonga    

A series of storms pounded the northern Bering Sea coast of Alaska the last days of December 2016 and into January 2017. Especially hard hit was Savoonga on St. Lawrence Island, where winds gusting to nearly 80mph on December 31, 2016 damaged at least 30 homes, including roof and wall damage. Several families started off the New Year sheltered in the school. 

A map showing winter storm warnings and coastal flood warnings for most of Alaska, extending across the state into the Interior.

Winter storm warnings and coastal flood warnings were issued by the National Weather Service for much of Western Alaska through the evening of December 29, 2016. Image source: NWS.

Winter Storms Batter Western Alaska    

A fast-moving storm brought high winds and blizzard conditions to much of western Alaska on December 29. Maximum wind gusts reached 65 mph in Kotzebue and 53 mph in Nome, both of which caused brief power outages in those communities. Peak wind speeds in other communities included 74 mph in Wales, 60 mph in Noorvik and Savoonga, 56 mph in Bethel, and 54 mph in Deering. Unlike some western Alaska storms that can go on for days, the blizzard conditions generally lasted less than 12 hours at any given place.