Record Breaking Summer of 2004
Hot, dry, and smoky are three words that could be used to describe Alaska this summer. Just how warm were we? Locations across the state from the Southeast Panhandle to the Seward Peninsula had departures for the combined June, July, and August mean temperature ranging from 3.4° to 5.0°F above normal. Nome, Fairbanks, Anchorage, King Salmon, Valdez, and Juneau all experienced the warmest summer on record. (The period of record for the stations ranges from 41 years for Valdez to 84 years for Barrow.) Numerous daily maximum and minimum high temperature records were set across the state, including an impressive 7 consecutive days above 84°F this June in Juneau. The frequency of days with high maxima were particularly large for the southern regions in which Anchorage reported 41 days with the high above 70°F, four times the average number. Certain areas could have been warmer than what was observed were it not for thick smoke that blanketed the interior.
Mean summer temperature (Jun - Aug) and departure.
Location
Mean (°F)
Departure from Normal (°F)
Barrow
41.8
3.8
Nome
54.5
4.3
Fairbanks
64.4
5.0
Anchorage
60.5
4.0
Valdez
57.2
3.4
Juneau
59.0
3.5
King Salmon
57.5
3.7
Boldface indicates new record.
Dry conditions also prevailed, mostly for the eastern interior and southern regions. Fairbanks only had 38% of the normal summer precipitation total but was almost one inch shy of the record lowest total set in 1957. About half of the normal rainfall was received in Juneau for the summer ranking this year third driest on record. The days with measurable precipitation were correspondingly lower than normal with Fairbanks, Anchorage, Valdez and Juneau missing out on two weeks worth of days with rain.
Summer Temperature Departure Summer Precipitation Departure
This unusual warmth can be attributed to a high pressure ridge that was essentially parked over the eastern interior for the majority of the summer. The type of pattern is not abnormal for Alaska during the summer, however the persistence is certainly anomalous. By mid-July and August the synoptic pattern normally is such that the wind regime is from a southwesterly direction, bringing with it cool, moist air from the Bering Sea. Of course the warm and dry conditions contributed to the active wildfire season in which over 6.4 million acres have burned to date.

LINKS
Temperatures Statistics (1 June - 31 August, 2004)
Location
New Record High Maxima
New Record High Minima
Days with High Above Threshold
Normal Number of Days with High
Above Threshold
Barrow
3
5
10, 60°F
4
Nome
8
8
10, 70°F
4
Fairbanks
0
4
22, 80°F
10
Anchorage
9
2
41, 70°F
10
Valdez
12
9
28, 70°F
8
Juneau
13
6
36, 70°F
16
King Salmon
7
7
33, 70°F
10
Boldface indicates new record.
Precipitation Statistics (1 June - 31 August, 2004)
Six city monthly summaries
State-wide monthly summaries
Alaska Fire Service
Fire images
National Weather Service
Location
Summer Total (in)
Percent of Normal
Days with Precipitation
Normal Number of Days with Precipitation
Barrow
3.34
150
32
27
Nome
7.06
108
34
37
Fairbanks
1.87
38
21
36
Anchorage
3.00
53
18
34
Valdez
7.16
53
32
47
Juneau
7.35
57
37
51
King Salmon
6.61
98
44
45

Preliminary data courtesy of the
National Weather Service.

Questions or comments?
Contact the Alaska Climate Research Center.

Posted: September 23, 2004
Revised: October 19, 2004