Record cold in Alaska as many glaciers grow worldwide

Weather Gems

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Yes, it was quite winterlike last weekend across our part of the country with afternoon highs in the mid 20s. But, things could have been much worse weatherwise.

Take the state of Alaska, for example. The city of Fairbanks had its second coldest morning ever for so early in the season on Thursday, Nov. 17, when the mercury plunged to minus-41 degrees at exactly 6:29 a.m. This broke the previous low for the date of -39 degrees set back in 1969.

The earliest reading of minus-40 degrees or colder in the month of November in Fairbanks was the minus-41 degree low on Nov. 5, 1907, more than a century ago.

In the suburbs of Fairbanks, the town of Tok reported a record November low reading of minus-47 degrees also on the 17th of the month.

"Sometimes we can go an entire winter season in Fairbanks without hitting minus-40 degrees," said Dan Hancock, the local Fairbanks meteorologist at the National Weather Service.

With all of the lakes in Alaska north of Anchorage solidly-frozen over, 'ice road truckers' like Hugh Rowland and Lisa Kelly are already taking their '18-wheelers' north to Prudhoe Bay, well above the Arctic Circle.

My two favorite TV shows are 'ICE ROAD TRUCKERS' on the History Channel and 'GOLD RUSH' on Discovery. I guess that I'll have to visit Alaska before I 'kick the bucket.' It's an amazing place.

The short summers and long, cold snowy winter seasons since 2007 have caused many glaciers to grow worldwide.

Just this past week, it was announced that the largest glacier in Chile at the southern tip of South America, the PIO XI GLACIER, is "growing at the astounding rate of 50 meters in height, length and density every day!"

Located in the Bernardo O'Higgins National Park, the PIO XI GLACIER is as big as the city of Santiago, Chile's capital. It is the largest glacier in the entire Patagonia Icefield with a surface area of 1265 square kilometers. The past four winter seasons combined, again since 2007, have been the snowiest in more than 200 years in extreme southern Chile and neighboring Argentina. One town at an elevation of 4,500 feet gauged more than three feet of snow in a single day on July 24, 2011. Thousands of sheep and at least three dozen people died in the all-time record blizzard from exposure.

On Nov. 18, it was announced that glaciers in the southern Pyrenees of Spain are likewise growing, especially the glacier called 'HELL.' (I guess that 'hell' really is 'freezing over.')

Next week in 'Gems,' Robert Felix of will tell us how and why glaciers grow. Stay tuned.


Nearly three inches of rain fell in just the past week in Coeur d'Alene as a series of mild Pacific storm systems washed away the first significant snows of the 2011-12 winter season, between 6 and 12 inches of the white stuff. Gusty winds above 30 miles per hour littered lawns with leaves and needles once again.

Temperatures climbed into the lower 50s on Wednesday, Nov. 23, the warmest afternoon readings of the entire month. Most of Thanksgiving Day was nice until showers arrived during the late evening hours.

As I wrote this North Idaho weather update on Friday, Nov. 25, skies were clearing and temperatures had returned to near-normal late November levels. Some rain or snow showers were likely by Sunday night or Monday and again on Wednesday, the last day of November.

Cooler temperatures will push back into the Inland Empire in early December followed by moderate to heavy snows in the region by the 'full moon' cycle of Dec. 10-17.

Longer-term, Randy Mann says that "La Nina is strengthening a bit," so we should have more snow than usual this winter in the Inland Empire, including North Idaho.

It's still likely that we will measure at least 80 inches of the white stuff in Coeur d'Alene this season. But, this will be far less than the whopping 121 inches that we gauged last winter on Player Drive during a stronger La Nina event.

Our normal seasonal snowfall in town since 1895 has been 69.8 inches. Our November snowfall since 1895 has averaged 8.7 inches. Last November, in 2010, we saw an all-time record 38.3 inches of snow. This November, our final total for the month should be near a foot of snow, approximately 40 percent above normal.

Who knows? If La Nina continues to gain strength in the waters of the Pacific Ocean, we could see 100 inches of snow or more this winter of 2011-12. Once again, only time will tell.

Cliff Harris is a climatologist who writes a weekly column for The Press. His opinions are his own. Email


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