Think it’s cold now? Winter’s first cold snap hits Fairbanks
by Tim Mowry
FAIRBANKS — Does 30 degrees below zero qualify as a cold snap, or does it have to hit 40 below? It may be a moot point by the time you read this.
The mercury hit 30 below for the first time this winter at Fairbanks International Airport on Thursday morning, and the National Weather Service says it probably will drop to 40 below in Fairbanks by the weekend, if it hasn’t already.
“The usual places … North Pole, the Goldstream Valley … will probably hit 40 below (Thursday) night,” meteorologist Rick Thoman with the National Weather Service in Fairbanks said on Thursday.
“If it doesn’t cloud up over the weekend, we’ve certainly got a decent shot of 40 below at the airport.”
As for the chance of clouds moving into the central Interior, Thoman said it doesn’t look likely. A low-pressure system moving west from Canada might bring some clouds to the eastern Interior, but they probably won’t reach as far as Fairbanks, he said.
“They may get some clouds down around Tok, but getting them this far northwest does not look likely,” Thoman said.
Which means it’s probably going to remain cold for the foreseeable future.
“We’re cold for some time to come; it’s just a question of how cold,” Thoman said.
Consider it the season’s first cold snap. Thursday marked the sixth day in a row the temperature at the airport didn’t climb above 10 below. Wednesday was the first day with a high temperature of 20 below or colder — it was 21 below — at the airport.
It was even colder in the eastern Interior, where a low of 52 below was recorded in Chicken on the Taylor Highway. A low of 44 below was reported in Eagle and Dry Creek. It was 43 below at Circle Hot Springs.
The weekend forecast calls for lows in Fairbanks down to 45 below and highs in the 20 to 30 below range through at least Monday.
“It does look pretty likely over the weekend that the air mass is going to get colder,” Thoman said.
It will get colder in the hills, too, he said. The inversion that people living at higher elevations have enjoyed the past few days is expected to dissipate by Saturday.
“Temperatures in the hills are definitely going to go down,” Thoman said, noting that it was 1 degree above zero at his house on top of 3,000-foot Murphy Dome on Thursday morning when the temperature at the airport was in the high 20s below at the airport.
The cold snap is a fitting end to what will be one of the coldest Novembers on record. Through Wednesday, the average temperature for the month was minus 7.5 degrees, which is 11 degrees below normal, Thoman said. Thursday marked the 16th day of the month the temperature hit 20 below or colder.
“This month is going to be in the top few coldest Novembers of record,” Thoman said. “It’s not going to be the coldest, but it might be the fourth or fifth.”
That would put it just ahead of November 2011, which ranked as the sixth-coldest November on record with an average temperature of minus 8.2, in large part because of a pre-Thanksgiving cold snap that resulted in the coldest week — average temperature of 30.1 below — ever recorded in Fairbanks before Thanksgiving.
Thoman said this November and last will be the coldest back-to-back Novembers on record.