Fairbanks Annual Summary 2014

Fairbanks Annual Weather Review

2014

by

The Alaska Climate Research Center

 

2014 was the 4th warmest year in the 111 year record available for Fairbanks, with a mean annual temperature of 31.2°F. However, 1926 still holds the record with 33.0°F (Wendler and Shulski 2009). The mean annual deviation from normal was +3.2°F, while not a large value for a month, it is a very substantial deviation for a time period as long as a year. This was to a great extent caused by very mild winter temperatures. Both January and December had positive deviations in temperature exceeding 10°F. Three new daily high temperature records were set, while no new daily lows were recorded during 2014.

 

 

Figure 1: 2014 temperatures of Fairbanks, Alaska

 Precipitation was far above normal with 17.16", the 5th wettest year of the Fairbanks climatological record. The absolute record was observed in 1990 with 18.52". The summer months were particularly wet, measuring 11.63", slightly surpassing the previous summer record of 11.59", observed in 1930. June also established a new record amount with 3.56", surpassing the old value of 3.55" observed in 1949 by just 1/100th of an inch. Five new daily precipitation records, and two new snowfall records were set in 2014.

After this short summary, we will now discuss the different meteorological elements over the year, starting with the temperature, the deviation of which presented in Figure 2. 

 

Figure 2: The mean annual temperature course for Fairbanks and its deviation from normal for 2014

Figure 2 shows clearly that the temperature was much warmer than normal in January with a mean temperatureof 7.6°F, a very large deviation of 15.5°F above the normal mean of -7.9°F. The warmest temperature for the month occurred on the 24th at 45°F, while the coldest temperature was -41°F recorded on both, the 12th and 13th. These two days were also the only two days of the year, in which the daily temperature minimum was below -40°F, fewer days than the long term normal of 11 days. Despite the predominantly above normal temperatures for the month, no new records were set. February was much closer to normal with a mean monthly temperature of -4.4°F, -1.3°F below the normal of ‑3.1°F. The highest temperature recorded for the month was 35°F on the 27th, while the coldest was -34°F occurring on the 10th. March was much closer to the expected conditions, without large variations from normal during the month. The mean for the month was 2.5°F above the expected value of 13.9°F. The warmest temperature recorded, 44°F, occurred on the 13th, while the coldest of -21°F occurred on both the 8th and 9th of March. April continued the somewhat (1.4°F) warmer than normal trend with a monthly mean temperature of 33.9°F. The end of the seasonal snow cover was observed on the 21st. The highest temperature for the month was 61°F which was observed on the 26th, 27th, and 30th, while the lowest temperature was -13°F on the 10th. The monthly mean temperature in May (51.3°F) continued to stay above the normal of 49.4°F by 1.9°F. On the 2nd of the month Ògreen-up" occurred, the time at which the leaves come out on the Chena Ridge, as observed by meteorologists from the National Weather Service. On the 14th the last frost occurred, which starts the Ògrowing season", the length of the frost-free period is highly important for agriculture. The lowest recorded temperature for the month occurred on the 9th and 14th at 31°F. The highest temperature recorded was 73°F on the 2nd and the high of 72°F reached on the following day surpassed the old 1995 record for that day by 2°F. June was the second month (after February) with a temperature below normal. A monthly mean of 58.4°F was observed, -2.0°F below the expected 60.4°F. The highest temperature occurred on the 29th, at 81°F; surprising as days with temperatures higher than 80°F are uncommon in Fairbanks, and in all of 2014 only four such days had been observed. The long-term normal of such high temperatures is 12 days annually. It is interesting to note, that due to global warming, the number of very warm days does not necessarily increase, while the decrease of the number of very cold days (-40°F) is much more significant. The lowest temperature of June at 38°F occurred on the 12th. July was slightly cooler than normal, a monthly mean of 61.0°F observed, 1.5°F below the 62.5°F normal. The highest temperature for the month was 87°F on the 6th, which was also the highest temperature of 2014, while the lowest was 39°F recorded on the 26th of July. August was warmer than normal, with a monthly mean temperature of 59.1°F, 3.0°F above the expected value of 56.1°F. On the 11th, the highest temperature for the month, 80°F, was recorded while on the 30th the lowest temperature of 33°F occurred. September was 1.5°F warmer than normal with a monthly mean recorded at 46.4°F. The relatively high monthly mean temperature was caused by unseasonably high temperatures during the middle of the month. The highest temperature for the month was 76°F on the 14th, which also broke the old 1938 record for that day by 3°F. On the other side of the coin, the first frost occurred on the 4th of September, resulting in the length of the growing season (frost-free period) of 111 days. The coldest temperature for the month was 24°F on the 28th of September. October's monthly mean temperature was measured at 25.2°F, 1.0°F above normal. The coldest temperature recorded for the month was 1°F occurring on both the 29th and 31st, while the highest temperature of 46°F occurred on the 2nd. The mean temperature in November was 8.2°F above normal, with a monthly mean of 10.8°F. The warmest temperature for the month was observed on the 12th at 38°F, while the coldest temperature occurred on both the 27th and 28th at -18°F. 2014 ended as it started with a very warm winter month. December's mean monthly temperaturewas 12.1°F above normal, with 8.0°F observed for the month, compared to the normal of -4.1°F. The highest temperature for the month was 37°F on the 31st, continuing a 4-day warm spell which started on the 28th, while the lowest temperature was -20°F on the 27th. It was the second warmest December in 111 years. In Table 1 the monthly temperatures, the normal temperatures and the deviation from normal can be seen. Nine months of the year were above normal, while 3 months were below their expected values. 

Table 1: Monthly temperatures at Fairbanks for 2014, normal (30year mean) temperatures and departures from the mean values

Month

Temperature

Observed
(°F)

Normal
(°F)

Delta
(°F)

January

7.6

-7.9

15.5

February

-4.4

-1.3

-3.1

March

13.9

11.4

2.5

April

33.9

32.5

1.4

May

51.3

49.4

1.9

June

58.4

60.4

-2.0

July

61.0

62.5

-1.5

August

59.1

56.1

3.0

September

46.4

44.9

1.5

October

25.2

24.2

1.0

November

10.8

2.6

8.2

December

8.0

-4.1

12.1

In Figure 3 the cumulative daily precipitation for 2014 as well as the values for the 30-year normal are presented. The long-term mean clearly shows that the amount of monthly precipitation for the first five months of the year is low, then in the summer greater amounts are observed, but once again in September lower values are observed. This is understandable, as the ability of the air to hold water vapor is a strong function of the temperature, the colder it is, the less water vapor air can hold. Looking at the annual trend for 2014, the amounts of precipitation are below normal until mid-June, then far above normal values are observed from mid-June to the end of September, but thereafter the observed values are close to normal.

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Figure 3: Cumulative daily precipitation for 2014, Fairbanks, Alaska

 Looking at the month individually, January started out with a mere 0.22" swe (snow water equivalent) or 38% of the normal of 0.58". All of it fell as snow with 2.5" measured for the month, or just 24% of the normal amount of 10.3". February precipitation was near normal at 0.40" swe, just 0.02" below the long term mean. Snowfall measured 7.1", -1.0" below normal. 4.3" of snow fell on the 6th, accounting for over half of the month's snowfall as well as breaking the 1971 record for the day of 2.9". Most of the rest was observed on February 16th. In March there was only one major snowfall, occurring on the 5th, bringing most of the 3.1" of snow observed for the month. The water content of the precipitation was near normal: 0.21" swe observed just 0.04" below the normal amount of 0.25". April's precipitation was 0.20" observed compared to the normal of 0.31". The snowfall this month recorded at 2.9", equal to the normal amount expected for it. Nearly all of the precipitation fell on the 6th and 7th of the month. In May precipitation was slight, with a monthly amount of 0.06", a mere 10% of normal. This is the 5th lowest value in our climate record of over a century. No snow was recorded, while 0.9" was the expected amount. This is the 5th month in a row with precipitation values below normal and ranked the 8th driest on the Fairbanks record. However, in the second part of June everything changed. For the month, precipitation was 260% of normal, with 3.56" observed, 2.19" above the normal of 1.37", which also set the record for wettest June for Fairbanks, very narrowly beating the 1949 record of 3.55". Significant rains fell on Fairbanks and its surrounding area on the 18th and 19th of June with between 2" and 3" at the airport, up to 3" and 4" at other local areas. The crest of the Salcha River was the 3rd highest on record. The river had not been that high since 1986. The gates of the Moose Creek Dam were activated to avoid flooding Fairbanks. Minor flooding was reported in the North Pole area. Residents of the Goodpaster River area reported water levels not seen since the 1950s. An observation site 40 miles East of Fairbanks reported the incredible amount of 10.90" of precipitation for June. In July 5.78" of precipitation was observed, 168% more than the normal of 2.16". It was the second wettest July on record for Fairbanks, just below the 5.96" from 2003. Part of this was due to the 1.92" that fell on the 1st of the month, utterly smashing the 1935 record of 0.65" for the day. The peaks in the Chena River runoff can be seen from the hydrogaph, presented in Figure 4. In August, as with the previous two months, the precipitation was heavier than normal with 2.29" observed, 0.41" above normal. On the 1st, the month opened up with a new record for the day, with 0.89" of precipitation observed, shattering the 1938 record of 0.47". Furthermore the heavier rain this month helped break the summer record from 1930, with 11.63" measured, just 0.04" above the 1930 record for this period.

 

 

Figure 4: Run-off of the Chena River for the summer months of 2014 and the 5-year mean of the previous years. Note, that up 5 times of normal discharge was observed

September's precipitation was heavier than normal with 2.89" recorded, 263% of the expected amount of 1.10" making 2014 the fourth wettest September on record. One daily precipitation record was set during the month, with 1.43" falling on the 1st, breaking the 1953 record for that day by 0.74". Snow however, was lighter than normal, with a mere 0.3" recorded, 1.5" less than the normal of 1.8". Total precipitation from June 1st to September 30th was 14.52", 1.64" above the next highest year (1930) for this four-month period. October's precipitation totaled 0.44", 0.39" below normal. Snowfall was measured at 5.7", 53% of the 10.8" normal value. However, despite the low amount of snowfall, on the 4th 2.8" of snowfall was recorded, breaking the 1971 record for the day by 0.6". Snow depth was only 2" at the end of the month, less than half the normal. In November 3.8" of snowfall (0.18" swe of precipitation) were recorded, 29% of the 13.2" normally expected. Snow depth measured just 5" at the end of the month. December's precipitation was higher than normal with 0.93" swe for the month, 0.29" above normal. This was partly due to the 0.39" swe that fell on the 2nd, breaking the record for that day set in 1992 by 0.1". As to be expected, the 15.2" of snowfall was also higher than normal with 126% of the expected 12.1".

In Table 2 the monthly values in precipitation, presented in the text, are summarized.

Table 2: Monthly precipitation at Fairbanks for 2014, normal (30 year mean) values and departures from the mean values

Month

Precipitation

Observed
(in)

Normal
(in)

Delta
(in)

Delta
%

%

January

0.22

0.58

-0.36

-62%

38%

February

0.40

0.42

-0.02

-5%

95%

March

0.21

0.25

-0.04

-16%

84%

April

0.20

0.31

-0.11

-35%

65%

May

0.06

0.60

-0.54

-90%

10%

June

3.56

1.37

2.19

160%

260%

July

5.78

2.16

3.62

168%

268%

August

2.29

1.88

0.41

22%

122%

September

2.89

1.10

1.79

163%

263%

October

0.44

0.83

-0.39

-47%

53%

November

0.18

0.67

-0.49

-73%

27%

December

0.93

0.64

0.29

45%

145%

 

Finally, in Table 3, all the notable dates, most of them mentioned in the text, are summarized.The last day of seasonal snow cover was April 21st, earlier than normal, and the last frost of the winter came on May 14th, about usual. Green up day occurred on the 2nd of May, earlier than normal. Growing degree-days totaled 1037 and the growing season was 111 days long, about average. The first frost hit on September 4th, and the snowpack was re-established on November 5th. As might be expected, heating degree-days was 134 below the normal of 13666. Correspondingly, cooling degree-days totaled just 226, 165 more than expected. Snowfall totaled just 40.6, just 62% of normal. The Highest wind speed was 42 mph on May 31st. Mean annual wind speed was 3.9 mph, 

Table 3: Climatological data of interest for 2014, Fairbanks, Alaska

2014 by the Numbers

Statistic

Value

Mean Annual Temperature

31.2°F

Departure from Normal

3.5°F

Highest Temperature

87°F (6 July)

Mean Highest Temperature

76.0°F (6 July)

Highs Above 80°F

4 days

Lowest Temperature

-41°F (12, 13 January)

Mean Lowest Temperature

-36.5°F (12 January)

Lows Below -40°F

2 days

Total Precipitation

17.16 inches

Departure from Normal

6.35 inches

Maximum 24hr Precipitation

1.92 inches (1 July)

Total Snowfall

40.6 inches

Departure from Normal

-24.4 inches

Maximum 24hr Snowfall

4.7 inches (2 December)

New Record Highs/Lows

3 / 0

New Record Precipitation/Snowfall

5 / 2

Heating Degree Days

12293

Departure from Normal

-1373

Cooling Degree Days

26

Departure from Normal

-35

Growing Degree Days

1037

Average Wind Speed

3.9 mph

Highest Wind Speed

42 mph (31 May)

End of Seasonal Snow Cover

21 April

Last Freeze

14 May

Greenup Day

2 May

First Freeze

4 September

Length of Growing Season

111 days

Establishment of Seasonal Snow Cover

4 October

Wildfire Area Burned

233,531 acres

Number of Wildland Fires

339

 

Reference: Wendler, G and M. Shulski , 2009 , A Century of Climate Change for Fairbanks, Alaska , Arctic , 62(3), 295-300 (can be downloaded from our website)

 This information consists of preliminary climatological data compiled by the Alaska Climate Research Center, Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks. For more information on weather and climatology, contact the center at 474-7885 or visit the center web site at http://akclimate.org. Please report any errors to webmaster@akclimate.org.