Alaska's Largest City Sets High-Temperature Record - NECN
Changing Climate

Changing Climate

In-depth coverage of our changing climate and environmental issues

Alaska's Largest City Sets High-Temperature Record

The high temperatures are both a weather story and a climate story



    Alaskans who routinely pack knit caps and fleece jackets in summer were swapping them for sunscreen and parasols Friday amid a prolonged heatwave.

    Residents of Anchorage and other south-central cities completed a fifth week of above-normal temperatures, including a record high 90 degrees (32.22 Celsius) Thursday in the state's largest city.

    On Friday, as temperatures dipped just slightly, Anchorage resident Lucy Davidson sought relief with her grandchildren at a beach at Goose Lake. She said she picked up a portable air conditioner at a garage sale six years ago. It had not been used some summers, but it's getting a workout lately.

    "That thing has been a blessing," Davidson said. "It stays on non-stop."

    July 4th Temperatures

    Think it was hot in your city for this year's Fourth of July? The mercury in Alaska broke records this year, with Anchorage hitting 90 degrees - closer to cities like Dallas, Phoenix and Miami than its usual temps in the 60s. See how close these other U.S. hot spots came to Anchorage’s record-busting temperature.

    Data: National Weather Service
    Credit: Vrushank Nayak


    The temperature Thursday in Anchorage hit 90 degrees (32.22 Celsius) at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, 5 degrees higher than the city's previous recorded high of 85 degrees (29.44 Celsius).

    Three other Alaska locations, Kenai, Palmer and King Salmon, set or tied all-time high temperature records Thursday.

    A high pressure ridge over much of south-central Alaska is strengthening and responsible for the record temperatures, National Weather Service meteorologist Bob Clay said. Anchorage's average high temperature for July 4 is 75 degrees (23.89 Celsius), Clay said.

    Temperatures have been in the 70s for all but one day since June 23, National Weather Service meteorologist Michelle McAuley said.

    Anchorage experienced its wettest May ever but was warmer than normal every day in June, she said. The high pressure system is expected at least through Monday, she said.

    Anchorage gardeners who can't grow a tomato without a greenhouse are loving the high temperatures. Others are experiencing flashbacks to where they used to live.

    Monthly Highest Temp. for Anchorage (1990-2019)

    Within the last decade, the temperature in Anchorage has hit past the 80-degree record six times. The previous highest temperature was 83 degrees on June 2015 and 2016. This July 4th, it climbed to 90 degrees (32.22 Celsius) for the first time.


    Data: National Weather Service
    Credit: Yuqing Liu

    "My home doesn't have AC like most homes here in Anchorage, and it's pretty miserable," said Manny Acuna, who moved north nine years ago with the Air Force. "That's a lot coming from me because I'm originally from Las Vegas."

    Shawn King has lived his entire 31 years in Anchorage and has never seen a stretch of similar hot weather, he said. He used the occasion to take his 4-year-old daughter, Tessa, fishing for the first time on the dock of Jewel Lake. She insisted on going barefoot.

    "It's too hot for shoes," Tessa said.

    Visitors bracing for cooler temperatures were surprised to find out they would not need parkas.

    "We didn't pack clothes for this," Judy Zickmund, who arrived in Anchorage after stepping off a cruise ship Friday morning in Seward with her husband, David. "We had gone on the internet, and they said it usually runs about 65, 70 (degrees). But this has been wonderful, coming to Anchorage. The whole cruise was warmer than normal."

    Rick Thoman, a climate specialist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, said the record high is both a weather story and part of the ongoing changing environment story.

    "These kinds of extreme weather events become much more likely in a warming world," Thoman said.

    High ocean temperatures have played a role in keeping Alaska warm, he said.

    "Surface temperatures are above normal everywhere around Alaska," Thoman said. "The entire Gulf of Alaska, in the Bering Sea, in the Chukchi Sea south of the ice edge, exceptionally warm waters, warmest on record, and of course record-low sea ice extent for this time of year off the north and northwest coasts of the state."

    Even with her air conditioner running full blast, Davidson said, she can't get the temperature inside her home below 82 degrees.

    "If it wasn't so expensive, I'd buy one of those big outdoor pools," she said.