The Mythical Death of Winter in Anchorage

In an op-ed for the Anchorage Press on November 26, we read the following:

“These weeks of hot winter weather have become a recurring nightmare for Alaska skiers and mushers. This month we're enduring a prolonged warm spell, mirroring the weeks of hot winter weather last year. Temperatures aren't just a little higher than usual –- they're wildly out of line, and portend the death of winter as we know it.

Last year the Iditarod racers crossed bare ground, the sled runners bouncing across dry earth and roots. News coverage featured bruised and lacerated racers, injured from falls on the icy, often snowless trail. The long-standing Tour of Anchorage was canceled for lack of snow cover on the Coastal and Kincaid trails. No skiers participated in the legendary Iditasport snow bike/ski/run race to McGrath and Nome, because there was almost no snow on the route. Last year we saw Alaska's winterless future in person, and this year's bleak late winter suggests that the heat wave is here to stay.”

And it goes on into continuing climate alarmism.

A few points are in order.  Technically, November (aka “this month”) is not “winter,” although it may feel like it.  November is still autumn.  Regardless, according to the NOAA National Weather Service database, the mean temperature for November 2014 in the Anchorage area is coming in so far at 31.3º F.  This places it only in a tie for fourth highest (with 1952) in the all-time November records, behind 1957, 1979, and 2002.  If the weather forecast holds for Anchorage until the end of the month, the average for this November is likely to come in at less than 31.3º F, meaning only the fifth warmest on record.  Hardly “wildly out of line” from a historical perspective.

Of course, here is a graph of November temperatures for the Anchorage region since records began in 1916.

There is a complete lack of any significant trend in November temperatures since records began a century ago.  No hint of any significant trends since 1970 or over the last three decades, either.  I must be missing the “wildly out of line” part.

Wintertime (i.e., December through February) temperatures in the Anchorage region actually have a correlation toward cooling – not warming – over the past 30 years.  That doesn't seem to “portend the death of winter as we know it.”

As for snowfall in the Anchorage area, here is the data back to when records began during the 1931-1932 season.

There is a highly statistically significant increasing trend in annual snowfall for this region.  “Alaska's winterless future”?

To find the “winterless future” for Anchorage, I also looked at average snow depths by month since records began.  For November, December, March, and April, there are statistically significant increasing – not decreasing trends in mean monthly snow depths, and almost a statistically significant increasing trend in February.  January has a positive correlation toward increasing snow depths as well.  In other words, there are no months between November and April with even declining correlations never mind significant declining trends in average snow depths.

The climate data seems to tell a very different story from what the op-ed says.  Rather than the “death of winter,” winter appears to be quite healthy in and around Anchorage.