FAIRBANKS—With no snow on the ground yet and none in the forecast for at least another week, the big question is: Will Fairbanks have a brown Halloween?
“It’s always tough to get past Halloween without snow,” longtime Fairbanks meteorologist Rick Thoman at the National Weather Service in Fairbanks said. “We’ve come close a bunch of times but we’ve only got the cigar once.”
It’s happened back in 1938, when a record-breaking heat wave during the second half of October melted what little snow had fallen by then.
Like 1938, what little snow has fallen so far this season in Fairbanks — a paltry eight-tenths of an inch at Fairbanks International Airport — has melted as a result of a chinook weather system that has produced near-record warm temperatures resembling summer more than winter.
There are still flowers blooming, or re-blooming, in Alaska’s second-largest city. Lawns that are usually covered in a blanket of white are still green and growing. Last weekend, there were even reports of a few mosquitoes still flying around.
“Flowers blooming this late in October in Fairbanks is pretty remarkable,” meteorologist Jim Brader at the National Weather Service in Fairbanks said.
While things cooled down dramatically on Monday and Tuesday from the weekend, when the high temperature climbed into the highs 50s and hit 60 degrees in some spots, it’s still much warmer than normal for this time of year.
The high temperature on Tuesday at the airport was 40 degrees, which was 13 degrees warmer than normal. The low of 23 degrees was 10 degrees above average. The average temperature so far this month of 38.7 degrees is 10.1 degrees warmer than normal.
There hasn’t been a day yet this season when the high temperature in Fairbanks was at or below freezing. That’s only happened five times previously dating back to 1904, Thoman said. Monday marked the first day of the season the average daily temperature in Fairbanks was below freezing.
As of Monday, there had only been two freezing degree days in Fairbanks this season. That compares to a normal of 111 and is the lowest number of freezing degree days since 1938.
And, get this, another blast of warm air is heading Fairbanks’ way this weekend. Starting Thursday, temperatures are expected to climb back into the 40s in Fairbanks and perhaps into the 50s closer to the Alaska Range.
“It’s not as dramatic as it has been, but there’s certainly a push of warm air coming up,” meteorologist Cary Freeman in Fairbanks said.
That, of course, means there won’t be any snow falling any time soon. Judging from the forecast, the earliest that Fairbanks will see any snow is Tuesday night, Freeman said.
As of today, this “winter” ties for No. 10 all time for the latest first day with an inch of snow reported on the ground at the airport.
“If we get to the weekend, which is very likely, we’d be in the top five,” Thoman said.
In a normal year, more than 8 inches of snow has fallen at the airport by now and most of that — about 6 1/2 inches — comes in October. So far this October, only one-tenth of an inch of snow has fallen at the airport.
While there is still another five months of winter to make that up, the longer Fairbanks goes without snow, the less likely that is to happen. All 10 of the other years when the first inch of snow has come this late or later have resulted in below-average snowfall for the winter, Thoman said.
“I’m going to guess there’s still time to make it up,” he said. “At this point it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a low snowfall year.”
The lack of snow isn’t as noteworthy as the warm temperatures this late in the year, Thoman said.
“It’s not unusual to get into a cool and dry pattern at this time of year, but it is unusual to get into a warm and dry pattern,” he said.
Here are the latest dates recorded when there was an inch of snow reported on the ground at Fairbanks International Airport.
1) Nov. 6, 1938
2) Oct. 31, 1969
3) Oct. 29, 1987
4) Oct. 27, 2003 and 2009
5) Oct. 26, 1943
6) Oct. 25, 1946
7) Oct. 24, 1976
8) Oct. 23, 1960 and 1953, 2013
Contact staff writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.
COMING FRIDAY: Check out the outdoors section on Friday to see how local snow lovers are coping with the snow drought.