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Thursday, August 18, 2005

90-degree heat--in Alaska

From the Independent:
August is meant to be a scorcher in Dallas but not in Fairbanks, where temperaturesyesterday were in the mid-80s Fahrenheit (high 20s Celsius). The weather has been clear and hot over almost all of Alaska for the past week, due to an intense high pressure dome that is reluctant to move on.

"This is for real; it is not a meteorological joke," said Ted Fathauer, who is the chief forecaster at the National Weather Service in Fairbanks. Over the past few days temperatures have topped 90F in some areas of the interior.
Scientists say this is more than just a string of freak summers. Between 1949 and 2003, the average annual air temperature in Alaska increased by 3.3 degrees Fahrenheit, with some areas in the state registering increases of almost twice that much, especially in the spring and the autumn.
There are serious ecological and engineering implications. The permafrost has until now provided stable ground on which trees can grow and roads, buildings and pipelines can be built. The first signs of it going mushy are large sinkholes, many of which are already visible this summer around Fairbanks.

"Our permafrost is still stable, even though it is very, very warm," Vladimir Romanovsky a geophysicist at the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks told the Alaska Daily News. "But the moment it starts to thaw, we will be able to say we are the warmest we have been the past 100,000 years."