March 26, 2014: Comparison Between Alaska and the U.P.
The winter was historically cold in Upper Michigan with the core of the coldest air in North America centered from the arctic into the Upper Midwest all winter. At the same time, the upper-air currents in this stable, persistent pattern brought relative warmth into Alaska. This is not unusual or unprecedented; normally when itâ??s warm during the winter in Alaska, it is cold in Upper Michigan.
Our coldest winters feature a persistent strong ridge near the West Coast and an equally strong trough in central North America (Images 1, 2 above). The ridge means a feed of warm air into Alaska while northwesterly winds tap cold air masses over the arctic and transport them into Upper Michigan. During the coldest winters this pattern repeats and hangs on; this year it was especially tenacious.
A look at mean temperatures from December through March at Fairbanks and the U.P. (NWS near Negaunee) show the contrast and also shows that â??warmâ?? is a relative term in the 49th State. Below is the mean temperature for the month and the anomaly (amount above or below average):
December: Fairbanks NWS
-0.4 -4.5 10.9 -7.6
January: 7.6 +15.5 5.8 -7.8
February: -3.1 -4.4 5.6 -9.9
March: 12.3 +2.7 12.8 -10.3
Note how it was actually colder during January in the U.P. than it was in Fairbanks. At the same time, February was actually a rather cold month in Alaska. Of course, it was coldâ??way below averageâ??throughout the winter here. March, so far, is running about the same at both locations. However, it probably feels like spring up there!