Alaska is about to finish 2019 with a record average high temperature after a year of extremes ranging from sweltering summer and rampant wildfires to vanishing sea ice and winter rains where heavy snows were once the norm.
Wildlife also suffered from the state’s turbulent climate, with mass die-offs of seabirds and marine mammals struggling to deal with ecological change.
The turbulence is part of a rapid warming pattern in which Alaska – at the forefront of climate change on account of its proximity to the Arctic – is heating at twice the rate of the planet as a complete, researchers say.
Alaska’s warmest season on record was 2016 summer when temperatures averaged 32.5 degrees Fahrenheit, i.e., just over 0 Celsius. That was the first time the benchmark edged above freezing, based on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In this year, the statewide average through November stood at 34.5 degrees, a year-to-date high that tops nearly a century of record-keeping.
The spring melt on main rivers came earlier than ever, and the topmost layer of permafrost across the Seward Peninsula was melted the entire year.
Summer temperatures climbed to 90 or higher in several locales, including Anchorage, amid an extreme drought. Wildfires destroyed homes, triggered departures, and fouled the region’s air quality for weeks.
Unusually high ocean temperatures generated toxic algae blooms in the Arctic’s Chukchi Sea.