Europe isn’t the only part of the world that’s been roasting and burning of late. So is Alaska.
Record and near-record heat swept the Last Frontier over the weekend, with stations across the state’s interior recording daily highs of close to 90 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday. On Sunday, temperatures rose to 92 degrees in Northway near the state’s Yukon border, smashing the all-time heat record set in 1942. Temperatures in Anchorage peaked at a comparably balmy 82, which still marked the capital city’s hottest day in three years.
The heat helped wildfires explode over the weekend, and their smoke is spreading far and wide. Saturday saw Anchorage’s first-ever dense smoke advisory as the Swan Lake Fire ballooned in size on the Kenai peninsula to the south.
The balmy weather caps a month that saw record or near-record heat across much of the state, including the hottest June on record for Anchorage, Rick Thoman, a climate scientist with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, told Earther. And the hot June came on the heels of a hot May, which followed a hot April, which followed a record-smashingly hot March, and well, you get the idea. It’s been hot in Alaska.
“It’s the same story, and it’s not even much of a different tune,” Thoman told Earther.
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Further north near Fairbanks, firefighters are battling another lightning-sparked conflagration: the Shovel Creek Fire, which grew rapidly on Sunday to more than 10,000 acres in size, prompting evacuation alerts for several neighborhoods. That fire is currently zero percent contained.
And unfortunately, more heat records could be broken this coming weekend. While the state saw a brief reprieve over the last 24 hours as a weather front swept across the Bering Sea, Thoman said weather models show a “massive high pressure” system building over Alaska by the end of the week, bringing temperatures in the mid to upper 80s and perhaps higher from Anchorage to Fairbanks.
Ironically, some places where heat records aren’t being broken might have wildfires to thank, as thick smoke helps keep daytime temperatures down.
“Fairbanks only got to 89 the other day, and that was surely because of the smoke,” Thoman said.