2003 Year in Review - Fairbanks
The first few months of the year in Fairbanks were quite warm, with daily temperature departures in the +20°F range. January and February mean temperatures were respectively, 7°F and 15°F warmer than the 30-year normal. Early in February temperatures were warm enough for a freezing rain event, which left the area with a thick coating of ice and forced a two-day closure of area schools. After a warm first week of March with above freezing temperatures, conditions changed to below normal and for the first time since September 2002, the mean monthly temperature was cooler than normal. Temperature conditions the first week of April continued the below normal trend, however, rather warm conditions followed. By the end of the month the snow season had ended in which the foot of snow that was on the ground, had melted. Cumulative precipitation to this point since the start of the year was near normal.

May and June temperatures were generally near normal, but precipitation totals were very light, which resulted in a 1-inch water deficit. Measurable precipitation occurred on only 5 days during the two months, a strong departure from the normal 18 days. The winds of change came in July with a moisture rich low pressure system that came across the Chukchi Sea and into the Interior. Fairbanks reported 1.16 inches of rain on the 26th and another 2.27 inches the following day. The two-day total represented one-third of the normal annual total (10.34 inches), and the July total of 5.96 inches was over half the annual total. The heavy precipitation did not come without a price, as area rivers and streams rose dramatically, flooding low-lying infrastructures.

Near normal temperature and precipitation conditions followed through the month August. After a chilly start to September, temperatures soared at the end of the month due to a Chinook event producing warm, but gusty, conditions. Record-breaking temperatures were seen in the Tanana Valley and across the state. The high of 71°F in Fairbanks on the 30th broke the previous record of 65°F. Warmth continued the next two days and records were set on October 1st and 2nd of 72°F and 70°F, respectively. The first snow of the 2003-04 winter season fell on September 25th.

Warm conditions continued through October, but by mid-November the first below zero readings of the season occurred. November also brought the first significant snow events with a total of 27.9 inches. This is a departure of over 14 inches and ranks the 5th highest November total since 1915. Temperatures were generally below normal for the month of December and the lowest temperature of the year (-42°F) occurred on the 2nd.
2003 By the Numbers
Mean Annual Temperature

Departure from Normal

Highest Temperature

Lowest Temperature

Total Precipitation

Departure from Normal
Maximum 24hr Precipitation
29.1°F

+2.4°F

86°F (Jul 20)

-42°F (Dec 2)

13.46 in

+3.12 in
2.27 in (Jul 27)


Questions or comments? Please contact the Alaska Climate Research Center.