Cold snap ends

Fairbanks' Immaculate Conception Church is silhouetted against a colorful sunrise on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, as temperatures warmed past 5 degrees above zero for the first time in 34 days. Julie Stricker/News-Miner

Temperatures warmed Monday, breaking the fourth-longest cold spell in Fairbanks history — if, that is, you’re defining “cold spell” using specific parameters. According to Alex Young, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, Fairbanks just experienced 34 days with temperatures never rising above 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

The longest streak of this kind took place in the winter of 1942-43, when Fairbanks saw 49 days of temperatures that didn’t rise above 5 degrees.

“The streak ends today and that would rank fourth of all time for Fairbanks,” Young, who works in Fairbanks, said Monday. “The last time anything like this happened was in the winter of 1974-75. It ended in mid-January of 1975. That’s the last time we’ve seen anything like this before.”

“This is a very unique event that happened here the last 34 days,” he added.

Young noted that, while the length of the cold spell is notable, over the past 34 days Fairbanks hasn’t seen any significantly cold temperatures. In January 1975, Fairbanks experienced a cold snap with low temperatures dropping to 60 below. This winter, in comparison, Fairbanks experienced a roughly 2 1/2-week cold snap with four days where low temperatures got to 40 below zero.

“That cold snap (in 1974-75) was much much lower than what we just experienced,” Young said. “As much as our streak was really long, it was relatively mild — at least in comparison with 1975.”

Young also pointed out that, if you shift the parameters, Fairbanks is still on track for another record — 51 days have passed during which the temperature hasn't warmed above 15 degrees.

“Right now, at 51 days, we’re ranking at No. 10,” Young said. “We’d have to go another three weeks to be No. 1. It looks like we’ll be exceeding that on Thursday … but we’ll see.”

According to Young, temperatures are anticipated to remain around 5-10 degrees until the area begins to warm a little midweek. By Friday, Fairbanks is forecast to have temperatures in the middle teens.

“It’ll stay relatively warm — especially considering what we just broke out of today,” Young said.

Contact staff writer Alistair Gardiner at 459-7575. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.