Decadal Climate Change in Fairbanks


Climatological data of the first decade of the 21st century are now available, and we analyzed the data for Fairbanks (see graph). Related to the temperature, the warmest year was 2002 with a mean temperature of 30.3°F, the 7th warmest in our records of more than a century. Higher temperatures were observed during the following years in order of decreasing values: 1926. 1987, 1928, 1993, 1940, and 1981. The coldest year of the last decade was 2006 with a mean temperature of 25.7°F. Numerous values below that level were observed during the last century. While the overall trend since 1906 shows warming, the best linear fit of the data points of the last decade displays a fairly strong cooling of 1.78°F. Recent cooling has also been observed in other parts of the world, and some climatologists have attributed this trend to the low solar activity we have experienced over the last few years. Another symptom of this can be seen in the aurora activity, which has decreased over the few last years here in Fairbanks. It is worthwhile to point out that during the Maunder Minimum (1645-1715), a time period of very low solar activity, Greenland froze over and the Vikings had to leave, as agricultural activities became more difficult.

Nevertheless, the last decade was on average warm, actually the second warmest decade of the last century; only the 1980's displayed a higher temperature in Fairbanks. The temperature has varied widely over the last century, 1926 being the warmest year. In 1976/77 a sudden and substantial temperature increase was observed in Alaska, which we attributed to a change in circulation, which is expressed in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. The PDO shifted from dominantly negative to dominantly positive values. Since that change, the temperature trend has been fairly flat for Fairbanks.

Precipitation during the last decade shows hardly any trend (see graph) and the mean value of just above 11" agrees well with the slightly decreasing trend that has been observed over the last century in Fairbanks, with a mean value of about 1% per decade.