2011 Year in Review - Fairbanks
Normal temperature and snowfall, but below normal precipitation marked 2011

The average annual temperature in 2011 for Fairbanks was 28.0°F, 0.3°F above the 30 year normal. The mean annual precipitation was 9.52", 88% of the normal of 10.81". Snowfall was as temperature very close to the expected amount. 63.6" were recorded in the calendar year, which is 98% of the normal value.

2011 started out on the warm side with January registering an average temperature of -6.0°F, 3.7°F above the long term mean for January. The high temperature for the month was 41°F on the 2nd, which tied the old record for that day set in 1937. The lowest temperature of the month was -42°F on the 22nd and 23rd. Precipitation for January was measured at 0.19", 66% below normal and the snowfall total was 3.1", 70% below normal for the month. Wind speed averaged 1.8 mph at the airport, with the highest wind gust measured at 26 mph on the 2nd.

February's average temperature was -6.5°F, 2.7°F below the long term mean for February. The high temperature for the month was 32°F on the 25th, and the lowest temperature of the month was -44°F on the 15th. Precipitation for February was measured at 1.64", 4.5 times the normal amount of 0.36". The daily precipitation record was tied on the 20th (0.31"), and a new record of 0.62" was set on the 21st. Snowfall for the month was recorded at 30.3". This was the second snowiest February in Fairbanks record, trailing the record of February 1966 (43.1"). 6.7" of snow fell on the 20th and 11.9" on the 21st. Two days of heavy winds and snow blasted the Fairbanks area on the 21st and 22nd causing limited visibility and dangerous driving conditions due to the blowing snow and mounting snowdrifts, caused power outages from trees falling on power lines and closed the northbound Dalton and Steese Highways. This was the biggest snowstorm to hit Fairbanks since 1984. Then on the 25th and 26th, the winds were back along with 5.2" more of snow. Wind speed for the month averaged only 2.6 mph but the highest gust recorded was 53 mph on the 25th.

The average temperature in March was 7.2°F, 3.9°F below the long term mean for March. The high temperature for the month was 45°F on the 29th, and the lowest temperature of the month was -32°F on the 1st. Precipitation for March was measured at 0.15" water-equivalent, 46% below normal. Snowfall for the month was recorded at 2.9", 47% below the long term mean. Wind speed averaged only 3.0 mph and the highest gust recorded was 28 mph on the 30th.

In April the average temperature was 31.8°F, 0.1°F above the long term mean for April. The high temperature for the month was 59°F on the 23rd and 24th, and the lowest temperature of the month was -15°F on the 1st. Precipitation for April was low with 0.07", only 1/3 of the expected value. Snow depth at the beginning of the month was 21", twice as much as the previous year, and on the 27th it had melted. Wind speed averaged 5.5 mph and the highest gust was 33 mph on the 6th.

The average temperature in May recorded as 52.4°F, 2.9°F above the long term mean for the month. The high temperature for May was 86°F on the 28th. The 85°F temperature mark was reached the day before (27th), setting a new record for this day and breaking the 82°F record from the year before. In addition, the 80°F temperature on the 26th matched the old daily record (also set in just the previous year). The high temperatures towards the end of the month were not limited to Fairbanks, but were widespread across Interior Alaska. The lowest temperature of the month was 25°F observed on the 8th of the month. In general it was found that the first half of the month was at or below normal, while the second half was above the seasonally expected temperatures. The last frost with a temperature below 32°F occurred on the 11th, while "greenup" was observed on the 17th, somewhat later than usual. The range for greenup day is fairly large with the earliest date at April 30, 1993, and the latest date at May 25, 1992. Precipitation for May was low with just 0.04", only 7% of the expected value. This is the second month in a row with far below normal precipitation values, and the third driest May on record. The combination of above normal temperatures in the second part of the month with no or little precipitation started the wildfire season earlier than usual, and several large fires were burning by the end of the month. Wind speed averaged 5.3 mph and the highest gust was 33 mph on the 24th.

June's average temperature was 60.4°F, 0.7°F above the long term mean. The high temperature for the month was 88°F on the 25th of June. This high temperature caused a large number of thunderstorms, and 4,300 lightning strikes were reported during the day, and they generated 10 new wildfires. The lowest temperature was 43°F observed on the 10th of the month. In general it was found that the daily temperatures for the month were close to normal, and no new daily records, be it maxima or minima, were observed during the month of June. Precipitation for the month was high with a total of 1.77", 26% above the expected value. Substantially more precipitation was recorded in the upper Chena Basin: large variations are typical for the summer season for the Interior region, due to shower activity caused by thunderstorms, which are more patchy than precipitation due to frontal activity. The Chena River was close to flood stage, and on the Salcha River some minor flooding did occur. Wind speed averaged 4.7 mph and the highest gust was 32 mph on the 12th.

The average temperature in July was 61.7°F, 0.8°F below the long term mean. The high temperature for the month was 81°F on the 22nd of July, while the lowest temperature of 45°F was observed on the 17th and 20th of the month. In general it was found that the whole month was close to normal and no new daily records, be it maxima or minima, were logged during July. Precipitation in July was 1.70", just 2% below the expected value. However, the month was cloudy (mean sky cover 74%) and on 16 days some precipitation was detected, three days more than normal. Substantially more precipitation was recorded in the upper Chena Basin. Wind speed averaged 4.0 mph and the highest gust was 35 mph on the 6th.

In August an average temperature was recorded as 57.2°F, 1.1°F above the long term mean for August. The high temperature for the month was 76°F on the 4th of August, while the lowest temperature of 40°F was observed on the 8th of the month. In general it was found that the whole month was close to normal and no new daily records, be it maxima or minima, were observed. Precipitation in August was 1.60", 15% below the expected value. However, the month was cloudy (mean sky cover 70%) and on 21 days some precipitation was recorded. Wind speed averaged 3.8 mph and the highest gust was 28 mph on the 19th.

The average temperature in September was 48.9°F, a substantial 4.0°F above the long term mean for the month. The high temperature of the month was 72°F on the 5th and 13th, while the lowest temperature of 28°F was observed on the 30th. The 26th was the first day of the month where the temperature dropped below the freezing point, ending the growing season. Even though this is not a new record, it continues the trend of later frosts in fall. The mean annual temperature of Fairbanks has increased 2.5°F over the last century, a substantial value and about twice the global mean increase, however, even more impressive is the change in the duration of the frost-free season which increased by 45% over the same time frame. Precipitation in September was 0.65", 41% below the expected value. The combination of warm temperatures and below normal precipitation made for a pleasurable month. Wind speed averaged 3.6 mph and the highest gust was 26 mph on the 19th. No new temperature or precipitation records were observed.

October's average temperature was 28.9°F, a substantial (4.7°F) above the long-term mean. This continues the above normal temperatures observed in September. The high temperature for the month was 57°F on the 2nd of October, while the lowest temperature of -2°F was observed on the last day of the month. Precipitation in October was 0.32" water-equivalent, far below the expected value of 0.83". This deficit in precipitation can be also seen from the limited snowfall of 4.2" for the month, which is far below the mean value of 10.8". The combination of above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation continued the September trend. Wind speed averaged 2.5 mph and the highest gust was 32 mph on the 10th. No new temperature or precipitation records were recorded.

After three months of above normal temperatures, November brought very, very cold temperatures with an average value of -8.2°F, which is a substantial negative deviation of -10.8°F from the November's long term mean. The high temperature for the month was 25°F on the 4th of November, while the lowest temperature occurred on the 17th with a low of -41°F. Remarkable was the cold spell from the 15th to the 22nd November with low temperatures daily of -35°F or below. Six days of the week set new daily record lows. These temperatures were more typical in the 1960's, and four of those six broke records that had been set in 1969. Further, it was the 6th coldest November recorded in Fairbanks and this dataset exceeds a century in length. Precipitation in November was 0.46" water-equivalent, below the expected value of 0.67". This deficit in precipitation can be also seen from the lack of snowfall, just 9.2" for the month, which is below the mean value of 13.2". The combination of record cold temperatures and a snowfall deficit will enhance the penetration of frost into the ground, and problems with freezing sewer and water lines later in winter can be expected. Wind speed averaged 3.0 mph and the highest gust was 30 mph on the 14th. Sky conditions were for clear for 6 days, for 14 days partly cloudy and for 10 days overcast.

December's average temperature was 4.0°F, a very substantial positive deviation (+8.1°F) from the long term mean. As November had been much too cold, the unexpected warmth was a welcomed event. Actually, the mean monthly temperature for December was warmer than the mean temperature for November. Furthermore, the minimum temperature for December of -36°F, measured on the last 2 days of the month, was 5°F warmer than the November minimum of -41°F on the 17th. December 2012 tied 1963 as the 10th warmest on record. Generally speaking, the first 3 weeks of the month were much warmer than would be expected, while the last week was below normal. The maximum temperature of the month occurred on the 4th with a balmy temperature, for Interior Alaska in winter, of +47°F. A mean temperature for the day was 37°F, a rare event, as mean daily temperatures above freezing are infrequent in winter. No new record absolute high or low temperatures were observed. Precipitation in December was 0.95" water-equivalent, 48% above the expected value of 0.64" and snowfall at 12.2" was only very slightly above normal. Wind speed averaged a slight 2.8 mph, a low value typical for winter in Interior Alaska. The highest gust was 51 mph on the 5th. Cloud cover was high with a mean monthly value of 80%. This is not surprising as cloudy days are in winter on average warmer than clear ones due to weak winter solar radiation. Hence, the substantially above normal temperatures would be an indication of higher than expected cloud cover.



2011 Statistics
Mean Annual Temperature 28.0°F
Departure from Normal +0.3°F
Highest Temperature 88.0°F (6 Jun)
Mean Highest Temperature 73.5°F (6 Jun)
Highs Above 80°F 5 days
Lowest Temperature -41°F (15 Feb)
Mean Lowest Temperature -35.5°F (17 Nov)
Lows Below -40°F 6 days
Total Precipitation 9.52 inches
Departure from Normal -1.29 inches
Maximum 24hr Precipitation .62 inches (21 Feb)
Total Snowfall 63.6 inches
Departure from Normal -1.40 inches
Maximum 24hr Snowfall 11.9 inches (21 Feb)
New Record Highs / Lows 3 / 6
New Record Precipitation / Snowfall 1 / 1
Heating Degree Days 13495
Departure from Normal -172



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Questions or comments? Please contact the Alaska Climate Research Center.
Preliminary climatological data are used for this summary. Please report any errors found to the Climate Center

Posted: 29 March, 2012