Alaska Climate Research Center

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2019 May Monthly Report


Highlights

The wildfire season has started in Alaska and it seems to be getting off to a quick start.  Early snowmelt, above normal temperatures, wind and persistent weather conditions are increasing the probability of wildfires across the state.  Multiple wildfires, from local to large and very large, have been active during last month.  The largest 'Oregon Lakes' wildfire close to Delta Junction, first reported on April 30, is still active.  The fire extends currently over 31850 acres.  Please check our UAFSmoke webpage at http://smoke.alaska.edu for updated fire information. UAFSmoke shows current wildfire status information and up to 72 hours forecast of concentrations of black carbon and particulate matter included in wildfire smoke.

The current drought conditions in Southeast Alaska are the most significant observed in the nearly 20-year history of the drought monitor. However, the National Weather Service in Juneau confirms that during the late 80s into the early 90s there have been significantly drier years where droughts lasted longer. Abnormally dry to extreme drought conditions are impacting local communities, especially due to their reliance on hydroelectric power. Due to low reservoirs level, some communities had to use supplement generators fueled by expensive diesel and implement water restrictions. Because of the drought, damages to trees from insects, especially Salal and Hemlock, are widespread. The damage area has already reached in 2018 the third largest area in almost 50 years of observations and continues to expand.

Very low sea ice extent, associated with the unprecedented warm temperatures experienced in Alaska during last months, is affecting the arctic ecosystem and local communities. A mass die- off of thousands of seabirds in the Bering Sea was linked to lack of nutritional sources, most likely due to declining sea ice and warmer sea surface and atmospheric temperature.

On May 11 at 2:12 am, Utqiaġvik, the America’s northernmost city saw the sun set for the last time for the next 83 days, until August 02.