2020 Annual Statewide Climate Report

Annual Summary Report 2020

2020 Alaska Climate Summary

Statewide 2020 Year in Review

  • Alaska was noticeably cooler in 2020 than in the previous seven years, with a mean temperature of 0.4 deg F above the 1981 - 2010 average.
  • The North Slope, Interior, and Panhandle regions were wetter than normal, ending drought conditions that had lasted for 18 months. The West Coast, Cook Inlet and Bristol Bay regions were drier than normal, with moderate drought conditions developing over Kotzebue and Kodiak Island in August.
  • Above average snowfall was observed in Anchorage (with the mountains around Anchorage also receiving significant snow), Bettles, and Fairbanks. Juneau saw below average snowfall for the year.
  • The 2020 Alaska wildfire season was much less active than the previous year, with only 340 fires recorded and just over 181,000 acres of land burnt, significantly less than the 719 fires recorded and 2 million acres burnt in 2019. Overall, the state experienced a below-normal fire season. In a typical fire season, Alaska burns about 650,000 acres.
  • Below normal temperatures in early 2020 enabled the Bering Sea ice to reach near-normal extent for the winter, but the ice was thin and brittle. The seasonal sea ice extent maximum was reached on March 5 at 15.05 million square kilometers, the 11th lowest in the satellite record and the highest since 2013. By September 15, the minimum sea ice extent was reached and ended up the second lowest in the 42-year satellite record, at 3.74 million square kilometers.
  • A new period of climate reference normal values became available with the end of the year 2020. Climate normals have been defined according to the World Meteorological Organization as the 30-year average of weather conditions across certain regions. The recent decade of 2011 - 2020 was characterized by unprecedented warming; non-uniform subtle climatological changes in precipitation were observed. Warming was most pronounced in the Arctic, emphasized by a decadal retreat of sea ice. The recent decade included extreme warm years with the year 2019 as an all-time record year, while 2020 was slightly cooler and more normal in terms of temperature. Normals reported here use the 1981 - 2010 timeframe.