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The US state of Alaska, part of which lies inside the Arctic Circle, sweltered under a heatwave, with record temperatures recorded in several areas, including its largest city. The temperature rivaled temperatures in Miami

Temperatures reached 90 Fahrenheit (F) (32.2C) in Anchorage on Thursday, shattering the city’s all-time record-high temperature by 5 degrees. The previous record of 85F was set in 1969. It also shattered the daily record of 77 degrees for the Fourth of July, which had stood since 1999. Records in Anchorage date back to 1952.

Three cities in Alaska experienced record high temperatures on July 4. More than 100 active fires throughout the state of Alaska were reported.

Media reports said:

The temperature hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit (F) at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. The previous record high temperature of 85 degrees F was set on June 14, 1969. The average high temperature for July 4 is 75 degrees F.

Other cities with records were Kenai and King Salmon. Both of the cities recorded temperatures of 89 degrees. Palmer tied its all-time record of 88 degrees.

The high temperatures and fire risk led to the Alaska State Fire Marshall’s office to suspend and ban the sales of fireworks due to hot, dry weather and “high to very high fire danger.”

The Swan Lake Fire had burned nearly 90,000 acres and was only 14% contained as of July 5.

Twenty-three fires burned within the Upper Yukon Fire Management Zone as of July 5, which covers the eastern interior part of the state.

This July 2, 2019, photo shows smoke rising from a wildfire in east Anchorage. Jason Jordet/Alaska Division of Forestry via AP

One expert told the Associated Press the high temperatures were the result of climate change.

“It’s a weather story and it is an ongoing changing environment story as well as these kinds of extreme weather events become much more likely in a warming world,” said Rick Thoman, a climate specialist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy.

A high-pressure ridge over much of south-central Alaska is responsible for the record temperatures.

The current high-pressure system comes on top of previous warming and High Ocean temperatures.

“Surface temperatures are above normal everywhere around Alaska,” Thoman said. “The entire Gulf of Alaska, in the Bering Sea, in the Chukchi Sea south of the ice edge, exceptionally warm waters, warmest on record, and of course record-low sea ice extent for this time of year off the north and northwest coasts of the state.”

Storms could mix warm surface water with cooler waters in lower portions of the upper ocean, he said, but storminess is at a minimum this time of year.

While it was well above normal in Anchorage, the 90-degree temperature is not a first for the state of Alaska.

Alaska is no stranger to the 90s. In fact, way back on July 28, 1919, Fairbanks made a run at 100 when the mercury topped out at 99. Fairbanks has experienced 90-degree heat on several other occasions, most recently on Aug. 5, 1994, when it recorded a 93-degree temperature.

Other spots in Alaska have hit the 90s too, including McGrath, which had a 94-degree temperature as recently as June 17, 2013. Alaska has seen triple-digit heat at least once since record keeping began: In 1915, Fort Yukon, which is situated in central eastern Alaska, recorded a temperature of 100 degrees.

The heat dome that has set up across the far southern part of the state and brought the unseasonably warm conditions to Anchorage will surge northward into midweek.

Temperatures will take a run at 90 degrees or higher across several locations across Alaska, threatening to shatter many daily record highs while some locations may topple all-time records.

Highs will average 10 to 20 degrees above normal for this time of the year.

The normal high temperature in Anchorage during early July is 65 degrees. Temperatures will continue to approach or crack 80 degrees through at least Monday.

As of Saturday, temperatures have reached or exceeded 80 degrees on six occasions in Anchorage this year. That is a record.

Bethel will not only break daily record highs early this week, but the all-time record of 88 degrees will be challenged.

Generally, rain-free days will be in store across the state. This will increase the threat for wildfires and also lead to poor air quality.

This is normally the warmest time of the year across Alaska as normal temperatures begin to decline by the middle of the month. While heat of this magnitude is common across the central parts of the state, it is not too common for it to become this warm along coastal locations. Warmer ocean temperatures off the coast have likely aided in this record heat.

The dramatic warming Alaska has experienced in recent years – linked partly to a decline in sea ice and Arctic Ocean warming – has wreaked havoc on local communities, wildlife and the state’s economy.

Permafrost – the frozen ground that covers almost 85 percent of Alaska – is thawing, affecting everything from building foundations to wildlife habitats and the picking of berries that grow on the tundra.

Frozen rivers usually serve as transport routes in winter, as two-thirds of communities in the state are not accessible by road.

 

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