The 500 mb pattern and the northern lights

The 500 mb (millibar) weather map has traditionally been the bread and butter of weather forecasters. Today, with so many new, high tech tools at their fingertips, is this map still relevant? You bet! The 500 mb level of the atmosphere is simply the height at which the air pressure is 500 mb (or 50 […]

Warm Days, Chilly Nights Go Hand in Hand in Late Summer

Fairbankskans and others in the Alaskan Interior have been enjoying plenty of sun and warm afternoons for the past week. The NWS office there even put out a statement about it, as if to rub it in to the rest of us who have been layering on the sweaters, if not rain coats, lately. PUBLIC […]

Southeast Alaska’s Dry Spot

No, the rain gauges are not malfunctioning, (although that has happened before at some weather stations). It has been very dry in the north end of the Inside Passage. There is a natural dry pocket in this rainforest to the point of really stretching the term rainforest. This year the first part of summer has […]

A Dry 4th of July?

Alaska is a great place to celebrate Independence day, and historically, the weather is decent, more often then not. This histogram shows the percentage of time each station received the listed amount of precipitation on July 4th over their period of weather records, 68 years minimum. Of these 4 metro (“Alaskan metro”) centers it is […]

Summer in Alaska: Generally, and for 2011

Today is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and the start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, at least from the astronomer’s point of view. From the climatologist’s perspective, the start of summer is a little more subjective, but the months of June, July and August are generally accepted as defining summer. […]

Good Cloud Days

Some days have boring clouds, or worse yet*, no clouds. Others I call good cloud days, because of the interesting, and often fast-changing, cloudscapes. Here are some of photos of a few of good cloud days I’ve experienced recently. I hope you appreciate the clouds you see, not just for their beauty but for the […]

Is Winter Over?

About this time of year, most Alaskans are thinking about Spring with every other brain cycle. Old timers will often say “If you put that snow shovel away now you’re just asking for a big dump of snow.” Are these late season dumps a likely reality, or do the few that have happen just stick […]

What’s the Snow Level?

The simple answer: It’s the elevation above which any precipitation is expected to be snow, and below which, rain. It is interesting that the term is not found in the NWS online glossary nor in the AMS’s online glossary nor in their printed version, Glossary of Weather and Climate. It is, nonetheless, a […]

Snow Talk

There’s a lot of talk about snow this winter, which makes it just like any winter in Alaska, or say Washington or Massachusetts. If your ski trail looks like the one on the left then the talk’s going to sound pretty down. If it looks like the one on the right, then you’re probably pretty […]