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Alaska under summer-like heat wave in mid-winter

NASA satellite map shows increased heat in January
NASA satellite map shows increased heat in JanuaryNASA

Climate change is making itself abundantly present around the globe in ever-unexpected ways as California faces the potential of 17 communities totally running out of water; parts of England get swamped under unprecedented flooding and Alaska’s January weather was 22 degrees above average under a system that would normally be bringing rain to California.

Jeremy Hance wrote about the phenomenon in his Mongabay report describing how Alaska ended up with California’s weather during the last half of January.

Normally, California would be experiencing the rain that Alaska got instead of snow, which has caused avalanches, reduced snow pack and swollen rivers.

“Alaska's warm spell was caused by high pressure conditions in the Pacific Ocean,” wrote Hance. “It pushed the warm air and precipitation that usually ends up in California this time of year into the 49th state. The abnormal temperatures brought plenty of rain to Alaska, instead of the normal snow.”

The seasonally uncommon rain in Alaska caused runoff that increased river and bay sediment that could be seen from satellite. The views are reminiscent of summer images over the pristine state.

In addition, the EPA indicated Alaska’s temperatures have risen twice as fast as any other state in the US, with the biggest impact being during the winter months. The state’s temps have increased by 6.3 degrees over the last half century.

According to a NASA study, many parts of the US were gripped in colder temperatures than Alaska on several occasions, including just last week due to frigid air slipping down from the polar vortex.

NASA’s report explains the cause of displaced heat and cold from their normal patterns:

The frigid cold was due to a weak jet steam, a phenomenon that some climate scientists believe may be linked to the decline in Arctic ice. The jet stream usually moves weather east to west, but a weaker jet stream means that weather is moving more north and south, i.e. bringing Arctic temperatures to the continental U.S. A number of climate scientists are currently investigating the possible link between abnormal jet streams and the rapid loss of Arctic sea ice, which if true would mean climate change may not only be exacerbating heat waves but cold spells as well.

In related news, President Barack Obama is now mulling the decision on the hotly contested Keystone XL pipeline after a state department cited it wouldn’t measurably increase climate change, due to the fact that tar sands will be extracted one way or the other.