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March weather brings AK record lows

Alaskans experienced an unusually cold March this year, with a record low in Barrow and Fairbanks' coldest March in more than three decades, according to UAF's Alaska Climate Research Center. The March temperatures represent a change from February's above-normal temperatures and led to increased energy needs throughout the state.

Locations in the Interior of the state had the coldest anomalies, with monthly average temperatures 8 degrees Fahrenheit or more below normal.  Due to the cold weather, “heating degree-days”—which represent energy needs—were above normal.  Heating degree-days are calculated by measuring the difference between mean daily temperature and 65 degrees Fahrenheit and summing these for the month.

Snowfall totals ranged from below normal to well above normal. For example, Nome had over 300 percent of the normal monthly snowfall.

The vernal equinox, the time at which daylight and darkness are approximately equal at all locations across the globe, occurred on March 21.

Fairbanks had its coldest March since 1972. The average temperature for the month was 3.0 degrees Fahrenheit, about 8 degrees below normal. The lowest temperature departures occurred at mid-month with lows dipping down to minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit.  The low for the month of 35 degrees below zero occurred on March 1, while the high of 42 degrees Fahrenheit was recorded on the 31st.  Heating degree-days totaled 1,912 units, about 240 more than the average March total.  Snowfall was 4.7 inches, about an inch below normal. Seventeen inches of snow was on the ground at the start of April.  Water equivalent precipitation totaled 0.22 inch, which was 80 percent of normal.

The average temperature in Anchorage last month was 24.4 degrees Fahrenheit, 1.5 degrees colder than average.  The low of 0 degree Fahrenheit occurred on
March 17. The high of 45 degrees was reported on the 21st.  Heating degree-days totaled 1,251 units, about 40 more than normal for March.  A
total of 12.3 inches of snow fell during the month, about 2 inches more than normal.  Ten inches of snow was on the ground by month’s end.  The water equivalent precipitation was 0.73 inch, about 10 percent above normal.

A record low temperature of minus 44 degrees Fahrenheit on March 10 was reported in Barrow. The entire month saw colder than normal temperatures. The average for the month was minus 18 degrees Fahrenheit, a negative departure of –minus 4.3 degrees and correspondingly, heating degree days were about 150 units above normal at 2,580.  The high was only 3 degrees below zero and occurred on March 21. The low of minus 46 degrees Fahrenheit
occurred on the 11th.  Snowfall was 1.2 inches above normal for March at 2.9 inches and 13 inches were on the ground by April.  Water equivalent precipitation was 0.13 inch, about 45 percent above normal.

Nome was colder and wetter than normal with an average temperature of 7.3 degrees Fahrenheit, 2.1 degrees below normal. Total snowfall was 23.6
inches, which is 16.6 inches above normal. The high for the month, 31 degrees Fahrenheit, was reported on March 9. The low of 31 degrees occurred
on the 31st.  Heating degree-days were 1,784 units, almost 75 more than normal.  The high snowfall total was due, in large part, to a storm early in
the month that produced 13.2 inches on March 1, and another 6.7 inches over the next five days.  At month’s end, 14 inches of snow was on the ground.
The water equivalent precipitation totaled 0.78 inch, about 25 percent more than normal. 

The average temperature for King Salmon in March was 17.7 degrees Fahrenheit, which was 5.9 degrees below normal. Minus 19 degrees Fahrenheit
was the low for the month and occurred on March 9. The high of 41 degrees was recorded the 28th.  The heating degree-days totaled 1,458 units, about
170 more than normal for March.  A total of 13 inches of snow fell during the month, about twice the normal amount, and two inches were on the ground
by the start of April. Water equivalent precipitation was 0.84 inch, slightly above normal.

It was the fifth coldest March on record in Juneau. The month had an average temperature of 27.8 degrees Fahrenheit, a departure of minus 5.9 degrees.
There were four consecutive record lows (March 15-18) of 2 degrees, minus 2 degrees, minus 3 degrees, which was the low for the month, and 0 degrees
Fahrenheit.  Temperatures rebounded after the record lows and the high for the month, 51 degrees Fahrenheit, was reported on the 22nd.  Along with the
lower temperatures, the heating degree-days were higher than normal for the month with 1,147 units, about 180 more than normal. Snowfall totaled 6.9
inches, down from the normal 11.3 inches for March.  No snow was on the ground at month’s end.  The water equivalent precipitation was 1.55 inches,
less than half the normal amount.

The Climate Research Center is part of the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. For more information on weather and climatology, contact the center at (907) 474-7885 or visit them on the Web.

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Alaska Climate Research Center | Posted 04.12.06 at 7:05 pm

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