Anchorage Shivers as Global Warming Gives Way to Cooling

Published October 9, 2008

Anchorage, Alaska is experiencing one of its coldest years on record, defying assertions that humans are creating a global warming crisis, especially in the Arctic.

Temperatures were particularly cool during the summer. The average daily high temperature at Anchorage International Airport from June 1 to August 5 was 59.3 degrees Fahrenheit, making it the second coldest summer since 1952.

“What is most striking is the lack of warm days this summer. There have been only two days when the daytime high has gone above 70ºF. The normal is three for June and five for July,” said Martha Shulski, Ph.D., a service and research climatologist for the Alaska Climate Research Center. “High temperatures over the summer to date have averaged only 59.6ºF, the coldest on record.”

Natural Cycles the Cause

Scientists attribute the cooling trend to a reduction in solar radiance, which had reached a 1,000-year high at the end of the twentieth century, and a shift in the El Niño/Southern Oscillation, during which Pacific Ocean currents since 1977 had set up in a pattern conducive to regional and global warming.

“When the Great Pacific Climate Shift—when the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) went from cold (negative) to warm (positive)—occurred in 1977-79, there was a sudden stepladder warming in temperatures across Alaska, reflecting the shift from cold to warm water offshore and the strengthening of the Aleutian low [atmospheric pressure area] that goes with the warm PDO,” observed Joe D’Aleo, executive director of the International Climate and Environmental Change Assessment Project and the first director of meteorology for the cable TV Weather Channel.

“The shift back to cold of the PDO in a big way this past year not surprisingly has led to a sudden cooling in Alaska, reversing the warming of 1979,” explained D’Aleo. “The Northeast Pacific water offshore has turned cold. The normal cycle lasts 20 to 30 years, so the state might expect much more of the same in most years for a long time to come.”

“Alaska will not be alone,” D’Aleo added. “The cool PDO means more La Niñas, which means more colder years for the globe.”