Downtown snow

A nice evening for a stroll in downtown Fairbanks on Friday, Dec. 2. Despite an end of the year cold snap, 2019 turned out to be the warmest year in Fairbanks history. 

The weather this year is going to be historic, and not because of the late December cold snap that’s swept through the Interior. It’ll be because of the warmth.

Climatologist Rick Thoman, who works out of the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said at this point it looks to be virtually certain that 2019 will be the warmest year of record for the state. If that’s the case, it will take the place of 2016, the previous warmest year of record.

Thoman noted it won’t be a certain record for the entire state until the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration releases its monthly report. However, the data right now guarantees it’s been the warmest year for a number of individual places, including Fairbanks, Utqiagvik and Anchorage.

It’s important to keep in context, he said, that five of the 10 warmest years in the past 95 years have been since 2014.

“This is continuing this trend that we’ve been in for going on seven years now of these extremely warm temperatures, so while this is the warmest, it’s not an isolated thing,” Thoman said, adding that it’s another in a set of warm years, not just for the Interior, but for the state.

For 87% of days in 2019, Alaska had above-normal temperatures, based on data from the statewide temperature index, according to Thoman. So it was the “persistence of the warmth” throughout the year pushing it to record level.

2019 was also a first for the state, in regard to the

average temperature.

“So, this will be the first calendar year that the average temperature has been above freezing,” Thoman added.

For 2019 the average temperature looks like it’s going to be 32.12 degrees, according to Thoman, just over 10 degrees higher than 1956, which holds the current record for the coldest average temperature at 21.8 degrees.

The end of the year cold temperatures that swept through the Interior didn’t do much to deter from the end result, either. Basically, by historic standards, it wasn’t cold for long, according to Thoman.

“Did it have an effect? Sure, but it was too little too late to affect that outcome,” Thoman said.

Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510. Follow her on Twitter at